The dark side of social media…

Are you aware of the impact that social media can have on your life? In a world where the internet and social media play a prevalent part in our lives, it’s important to understand the effects of this popular culture phenomenon. It helps to bring people together and allows us to share our thoughts, images and information on a level that is unprecedented. The issue is that it’s not all lovely and happy…  In her latest piece below,  Nikki Elkin explores the other side to social media and just how much it can affect our emotional health if we are not careful in how we use it.


Social media ie. Facebook / Twitter / Snapchat/ Instagram can be great for connecting in some ways, for example, to capture moments with friends and family, let others know what we’ve been up to or share exciting news. The thing is, we don’t necessarily have to share everything with our ‘friends’ on social media, but sometimes we feel the need to, even when we know deep down we shouldn’t hit the ‘post’ button.

So, why do we do this? I believe it’s for a number of reasons; as individuals we crave attention from people we don’t even know that well or even like. We want to feel important. We want to feel like we’re active and doing things to contribute to ‘living our lives to the full’. It feels like we are constantly bombarded with phrases like ‘life is too short’ and ‘you must live life to the full’ and as result, we constantly need to feel like we’re making the most of our time and our youth.

Our achievements are something that we often post on social media, so, when scrolling through other people’s news feed, from the outside it might seem like everyone is doing SO well in their lives. The reality though, is that this may not be the case.

Ok, so the title of this post does imply that I’m totally against all forms of social media, but in fact, that isn’t the case at all. I am very much guilty of using social media on a regular basis – sharing photos, music, memories, articles I’ve read or written and so on and so forth on many forms of social media. Does this make me an attention seeker? Perhaps it does. Or maybe I just feel like I have to keep up with everyone else…?

iphone- 73KBI feel that we do this in some ways as a form of validation and social acceptance. We want others to agree with us, find us funny, think we look good in our photos, etc. But when does it stop? Are we not satisfied if we get less than a certain amount of likes on a photo? Does this make us not feel as popular or liked as a person?

A like on an Instagram photo has replaced a comment of ‘you look nice’ in real life and this makes it difficult for a person to stop posting. ‘Likes’ and comments are positive reinforcement for posting information, thus making social media highly addictive. Researchers have found this so common that they created a scale to measure this addiction also known as The Berge Facebook Addiction Scale.

I find that many people in our generation have become obsessed with seeking validation through different forms of social media; some more than others. We are constantly exposed to our friends/people from our past telling us about all their achievements, a job promotion, the 2:1 they received on their degree, pictures of their graduation photos with the beaming smiles of proud parents.

All this ‘smoasting’ (social media boasting) is enough to make anyone feel inferior, even the most confident of people. Being exposed to this on a regular basis can sometimes make us feel like we’re not good enough; like everyone else is moving forward with their life at a rapid pace yet I’m just staying still and watching the world go by.

I think you have to remember that nobody has a perfect life and the statuses etc people put on Facebook and other social media are only what they want you to see. What we post and the inner workings of our minds; our doubts, worries and struggles, are two completely different things. The latter is usually kept private because in some ways social media is just a way for us to show off and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Caitlin Probst has written an interesting article about the different ways that social media affects our mental health. She covers points including how it makes us restless, unhappy and increases peer pressure on drug and alcohol use, and suggests that ‘next time you go to check your Facebook, retweet an interesting link, or choose an Instagram filter for a selfie, think about the ways your brain is processing the seemingly endless stream of information it is taking in’. (You can read Caitlin’s article here.)

social-media-350I recently read an article on the New York magazine website called ‘Yes, quitting Facebook may make you happier’, which spoke to me a lot.  It talks about a study carried out by Danish researcher Morten Tromholt, published in Cyberpsychology Behaviour, and Social Networking.

Tromholt recruited 1,095 Facebook using participants and put them into two groups. One group agreed to not to go on Facebook for a full week (87% made it) and a control group used the social network as usual. When the week was up, unsurprisingly, the intervention group reported higher happiness than the control group, albeit a small difference of 0.37 between the two groups on a scale from 1 to 10. (Read Drake Baer’s article here.)

It could be argued that as this study was only a week, it would be better to see the effects of self-imposed social media exile over the course of months or years or decades. However, as a snapshot, if already after just one week there are signs that people who quit social media are happier (if only slightly), imagine what the effects would be after avoiding social media for years…

Is social media really a necessity in our lives or do we just log in every day because these are habits we have which are just too difficult to shake off? What I find particularly interesting about Tromholt’s study was that not even 100% of the people in the intervention group actually made it to not go on Facebook for just ONE WEEK.  Do you think you could do it?

I found a twitter bio a while back which I think sums it up perfectly: ‘Everyone on the internet; they aren’t having as much fun as you think they are… I guess they’re just cropping out the sadness.’

Thanks for reading!



Hi my name’s Nikki and I’m a second year student at UWE Bristol. In my spare time I enjoy; attending music festivals, listening to music, cooking, yoga, meditation and blog writing. I have been blogging for a couple of years now and I hope my writing encourages people to take positive steps in life to reach their personal goals.


Many thanks for this, Nikki! 🙂

If you found Tromholt’s study interesting you might also be interested to read about this – “A study of 12 million Facebook users suggests that using Facebook is associated with living longer – when it serves to maintain and enhance your real-world social ties.”



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