This Is How Social Media Is Impacting Your Self Image

It's a common fact of life: we're looking at our screens more than ever. While the results of the technology addiction are just starting to become more clear, new studies show which behaviors can be most damaging to your mental health. According to mindbodygreen, the way that you use social media may be more telling than how frequently you do so. Since it's 2021 and checking your phone every five minutes is the new norm, usage of these apps is a given. But, certain behaviors can be more consequential than others.

The outlet explains that our relationship with social media has replaced a lot of the in-person interactions that many of us are used to and need to feel fully engaged in the world around us. However, a study found that those who picked up their phones to scroll through Instagram were actually lonelier afterward. Of course, any interactions that took place outside of social media—like phone calls—created the opposite effect.

The most damaging behavior that researchers found was "passive scrolling," which was also the most common type of perusing they reported. Passive scrolling involves scrolling through your newsfeed without interacting with anyone's content; it's particularly damaging because it usually coincides with constant self-comparison to what the user is viewing.

Passive scrolling is the perfect way to compare

Perhaps the most damaging aspect of passive scrolling is that it's addictive. Forbes reports that studies have found users going into withdrawals after taking a break from their smartphones. In addition to psychological symptoms, users also reported physiological side effects as well, meaning that their bodies had an adverse reaction to losing their constant stream of information and entertainment. Furthermore, the outlet notes that people who frequently went on Facebook reported less moment-to-moment happiness and life satisfaction with increased social media usage.

But, scrolling mindlessly and not interact with any of the content may be the most damaging of all. Derrick Wirtz, PhD., explained to mindbodygreen, "Viewing images and updates that selectively portray others positively may lead social media users to underestimate how much others actually experience negative emotions and lead people to conclude that their own life—with its mix of positive and negative feelings—is, by comparison, not as good."

Instead of getting at least some interaction from their Instagram page, users who passively scroll mainly leave the app with damaging comparisons without any feeling of connection. In addition to shortening our attention spans and spurring jealousy, social media usage may give us less social interaction than anyone assumed. To combat this issue, the outlet recommends being more mindful and engaging during your scroll sessions. Plus, try your best to get some socialization outside of the apps; whether it's a phone or Zoom call, it can make a huge difference.