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Protect Your Peace of Mind Online: The Link Between Social Media and Mental Health

We know social media usage affects mental health, but abandoning tech isn’t the answer. There are other solutions, often within tech itself, that can help.

This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing distress and need further support or you have clinical needs, please contact your healthcare provider, and never disregard professional medical or mental health advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read here.

The current digital landscape has an impact on the mental health of employees, employers, and young children who will eventually be hired into the workforce. As digital connectedness and levels of personal or professional use continue to rise, managers and parents are on the hook for mitigating the impacts. In 2024, we are seeing a move toward embracing technology as a way to combat the current mental health crisis across the country. Now, there are personal and professional ways to leverage technology to support the well-being of entire organizations. To understand the potential pitfalls of digital connectedness, we first have to discuss how social media and mental health intertwine.

The Impact of Digital Overload on Well-being

There is a very real consequence to being online, whether you’re a child or a working adult. As we continue to learn about the connection between physical and mental health, we start to see how excessive screen time impacts both.

Technology's Influence on Physical Health

The negative impacts of unrestrained social media usage on physical health include:

Constant connectivity deteriorates healthy sleep patterns, raises stress levels, and contributes to common mental health challenges like anxiety and depression. This has a direct impact on work performance and output. Consider a digital detox to restore balance to your nervous system and avoid burnout. Whether you’re a manager or a mom, your mental health will thank you.

Social Media's Effect on Mental Health 

Screen time doesn’t only apply to social media. The link between digital connectedness and stress, which impacts our mental well-being, is important to understand. The psychological impact of comparison culture, cyberbullying, and the constant onslaught of content is profound. But it’s also important to acknowledge the positive effects of being able to connect with people around the world with just our pocket-sized devices. While research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that excessive social media use leads to interrupted sleep patterns, it also contributes to users’ feelings of social inclusion. 1-2 hours a day is proven to impact mental health positively. Because that’s an average statistic, it’s best to know yourself personally so you can tell when it’s time to take a break from technology or step away from social media.

Recognizing the Red Flag Signs and Symptoms

Since we use social media and other forms of technology in our working lives, it can be tough to determine when it’s time to take a break from it all. There are a few signs to watch out for that signal a mental health challenge brought on by excessive social media or technology use. 

This includes:

  • Lack of interest in usual activities
  • Mood swings or irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Extreme social media use
  • Higher stress levels

An even larger challenge facing children and adults right now? How to proactively approach creating healthy habits around technology. Modern Health has a few ideas.

Strategies for Healthy Tech Habits

Technology is here to stay. It’s time to leverage it to our advantage and take back what’s ours: a balanced life and mental well-being for ourselves and our children. Here’s how to start.

Habit Stacking

Using our devices is a habit. We reach for our phone to play podcasts or songs on our commute to and from work, scroll social media while we wait in line for coffee, and pick up where we left off on our favorite phone game when we settle down at the end of the night. Because of this, we have to consider how to build new, healthier habits around social media and technology if we want to improve our mental health. That’s where habit stacking comes in. To be successful, carefully choose when and where you add a new habit to your daily routine. If you notice you’re on your phone more in the evenings, consider what to include in your lifestyle that will limit your screen time. 

Set Boundaries Around Screen Time

It can be a challenge to break bad habits. Setting clear boundaries around device usage so you have no choice but to avoid the temptation can help. There’s a setting on the iPhone that allows you to set screen time limits for certain apps or phone use in general. By discouraging unlimited use out of habit or convenience, you encourage more mindful engagement with technology for yourself and your children.

Create Digital-Free Spaces and Times

Just like how certain families require their children to plug their phones into a charger in the kitchen overnight, you can create digital-free spaces around your home or in your workday. No phone in the bedroom is a popular tactic to avoid scrolling before you sleep.Putting your phone in another room (or in a desk drawer on silent) while you work is another great option. This separates work time from personal time, which does wonders for your mental health.

Avoid Disturbing or Triggering Content

You can also adjust settings within apps or on your phone to prevent exposure to graphic images or disturbing content. This is especially important for anyone who heeds trigger warnings. Protect your peace and scroll on by. There are also parental control apps for both Android and iOS that you can use to monitor or restrict your children’s online activity such as:

  • Bark
  • Eyezy
  • Kaspersky Safe Kids
  • Net Nanny
  • Qustodio

Each app has unique features and benefits, so do your research to find the right one for you and your family.

Leverage Technology for Positive Mental Health Practices

As device and social media usage continues to rise, we need to acknowledge that we can’t avoid technology altogether. Instead, we should seek to cultivate a healthy relationship with it. One way to do this is to use technology to our advantage by:

  • Downloading wellness apps like Calm or Headspace
  • Taking part in employee assistance programs (EAPs)
  • Using mental health platforms that prioritize virtual coaching and self-guided resources
  • Following mental health accounts on social media

By modeling responsible social media use, you can empower your children to use technology to benefit their physical and mental health. 

Shaping the Future of Mental Well-being

Modern health care needs to be focused on mental health as much as physical health. Our digital age has a profound impact on both, which necessitates the expanded breadth of care. A holistic, culturally sensitive, and evidence-based approach to health care that helps build resilience in the face of digital influence is the solution.

A Modern Approach to Mental Health in the Digital Age

The digital age presents many mental health challenges for employees and managers alike, but one thing remains the same–the need to address them in a way that provides real relief. A comprehensive mental wellness platform like Modern Health does just that. With science-backed resources, an online platform, and culturally sensitive coaching, we’re here for all of you. Our platform empowers employers to lead the charge in acknowledging that mental health is just as important as physical health, de-stigmatizing the conversation, and increasing the accessibility of mental health services for all. It also supports employees on their well-being journey, with tailored support for digital challenges. It's time to experience what personalized mental health care can do for employee and family well-being. Whether you are an HR representative, benefits consultant, or provider, you can request a demo with Modern Health. 

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