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Since the advent of wifi and smartphones, and the dawn of social media, the internet has gone from a casual pastime to encompassing our entire lives. Most of us now use social media networks as our primary means of socializing, and it’s rapidly changing the way we interact as human beings. Unsurprisingly, there are quite a few scientifically proven ways this new form of communication we rely upon is impacting our mental health, in both good ways and bad.

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It’s extremely addictive

Studies show that being unable to check social media can lead to psychological symptoms of withdrawal. Participants who were asked to go without social media for a week reported feelings of boredom, cravings, and social pressure to check their feeds during their abstinence, and 59% relapsed during the intervention phase at least once.

Social media addiction AJ_Watt / Getty Images
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Avoiding social media addiction

The best way to break the compulsive “checking” cycle is by disabling all notifications on your phone apart from incoming texts or calls. When your phone isn’t calling out to you with every status update, it’s easier to resist the temptation to check every like and comment in your feed — which often ropes you into another hour of endless scrolling.

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It can make you feel depressed

The more time we spend on social media, the less happy we are. A study carried out by L’Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien in France found a link between Facebook use and lower life satisfaction. The more time participants spent on the social media network, the less moment-to-moment happiness they reported.

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How to avoid letting social media get you down

Spending every second of downtime mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds is a huge problem for most people these days. Try to resist the urge to pick up your phone by keeping your hands busy with a mentally healthy activity like reading, drawing, knitting, doing crosswords, building with Legos, or even cuddling your pet. You’ll be amazed how much more spare time in the day you’ll have when you aren’t obsessing over what everyone else is doing with their lives.

Avoiding social media sadness Fly_dragonfly / Getty Images
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It makes you jealous

The old saying, “comparison is the thief of joy” has never been more true in this age of endless augmented beach selfies and tropical check-ins. A study of 736 college students showed that using Facebook triggered envy, which was also found to be a precursor to symptoms of depression.

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How to avoid social media jealousy

Stave off the green-eyed monster by remembering not to compare your behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel. Compulsively following other people's lives can quickly become an unhealthy obsession, especially when it’s a celebrity or an ex. To prevent this, unfollow any accounts that you notice are triggering feelings of envy. Out of sight, out of mind.

Avoiding jealousy on social media blackred / Getty Images
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It makes you feel lonely

It may seem counterintuitive that “social” media makes us feel isolated, but one study found using these online networks to socialize is linked to greater feelings of perceived loneliness. The more survey respondents used these platforms, the lonelier they felt. Isolation can be devastating to both mental and physical health, and interacting through a glowing screen is simply no substitute for face-to-face friendships, even if the face-to-face has to be a video chat.

Social media loneliness filadendron / Getty Images
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How to avoid feelings of loneliness from social media

Social media is no substitute for real-life interaction. If you keep in touch with your friends on social media every day but can’t remember the last time you got together with them in person, maybe it’s time to arrange something. Just remember to put your phones away and fully appreciate the moment, when you do.

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Social media has its positives

A Harvard study found that mindfully fitting social media use into a regular, balanced routine — to keep up with friends to maintain a strong social network — had a positive effect on mental health and wellbeing. It’s only when social media use becomes obsessive and compulsive that it starts to be unhealthy.

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Striking the right balance

The best way to balance your social media use? Take a break from it! The mental, emotional, and even physical benefits of a digital detox can’t be overstated. Although you could rely on deleting the most addictive apps and practicing self-discipline, most people swear by the cold turkey approach and challenge themselves to keep their devices off or away for a certain amount of time each day.

Unplugging from social media talip / Getty Images

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.