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Summer Solstice 2019

June 11, 2019

Social Media & the Mental Health of College Students

As if 15-page papers and pop quizzes in college weren’t enough, sometimes Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and other social media sites make balancing your online social life with your true social life tricky. It’s no secret that most people present their best selves online. While photos may tell an idyllic story, they might not tell the full, less perfect picture. There are positive aspects to social media, but depression and loneliness may creep in when you compare yourselves to others on social media.

College students spend 8-10 hours per day on their phones. Fight the symptoms of excessive social media usage by reducing the time you spend on social media sites. Limiting yourself to 30 minutes per day still affords you the opportunity to soak up the positive effects of social media while also avoiding the negative effects of overuse.

Positives of Social Media

Completely removing social media from your life isn’t the answer, as there are benefits to social media, especially for young adults. Social media boosts social skills, increases creativity and opens you up to support groups you wouldn’t be able to access outside of the internet. Online platforms give you the chance to develop positive human contact through in-person meetings as well, whether you want to plan an event at your school or schedule a coffee date via Snapchat. While social media is a powerful connector, it’s important to check in with yourself to make sure it’s not impacting you in a negative way.

Taking Care of Your Mental Health

College can be a difficult transition, prompting mental health issues such as depression or bipolar disorder. The balancing act of school, friends and work can become overwhelming, which is why you might find yourself escaping through your Instagram. It’s easy to ignore signs of psychosis in college and retreat to an online world. On social media, you have more control over what you see – you can unfriend people you don’t like, curate your news feed by unsubscribing from others and ignore messages from strangers. Finding someone to talk to about your mental health plan will help your state of mind if you’re struggling to adapt to college.

In 2017, people ages 18-25 had the highest prevalence of mental illness among U.S. adults at 25.8%. Social media usage isn’t entirely to blame for the high percentage, but social media can be toxic, leading to cyberbullying, less face time and increased comparisons between yourself and all of your followers (which are inevitable).

While major depression is a diagnosable mental illness, some students simply have difficulty adjusting to campus life. For both situations, drastically reducing your social media usage to about 30 minutes per day can decrease both depression and loneliness.

How to Cut Your Social Media Time

You might need to check social media every so often for college events, to socialize with new friends or maybe even for class projects. But try to spend less time on social media by using these techniques.

  • Turn off any social media push notifications on your phone.
  • Switch your phone to grayscale. When you can’t see brightly colored pictures on social media, you cut your desire to keep checking.
  • Check your social media accounts at the same time every day and set limits on how long you can spend on each site. Start by reducing your daily scroll to three times, then decrease as you see fit.

Social media might boost your mood when you’re feeling down but it can also impact you in a negative way. Limit your social media use and opt for interacting with your peers around campus.

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