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Editorial: Limiting social media benefits health and happiness

A BYUH student sits at a table and looks at her phone screen in front of her laptop.
Photo by Noah Shoaf

According to, 95 million photos are uploaded to Instagram each day. That is 95 million smiles, selfies and scenery flashing before our eyes. Captions like “living my best life” cloud our minds as we navigate the chaos of our daily routines.

As social media gains influence, we live less in the moment and more in a world full of filters, photoshop, and false realities that affect our mental health and happiness.

In an article for, Matthew Hudson shares, “Social media refers to websites and applications that are designed to allow people to share content quickly, efficiently and in real-time.” He adds, “The ability to share photos, opinions, events, etc. in real-time has transformed the way we live and, also, the way we do business.”

As social media grows, a 2018 Pew Research Center study found the largest share of teens (45 percent) say social media has neither a negative or positive effect. Thirty-one percent of teens say social media has a mostly positive effect, and 24 percent say social media has a mostly negative effect.

Although some believe social media has little effect on life, the Child Mind Institute reported teenage and young adult users who spend the most time on Instagram, Facebook and other platforms were shown to have a substantially (from 13 to 66 percent) higher rate of reported depression than those who spent the least time on these social media platforms.

A study from the University of Pennsylvania echoes the Child Mind Institute, suggesting social media can adversely affect mental health. During the study, 143 undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania were randomly assigned to either limit Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat use to 10 minutes, per platform, per day, or to use social media as usual for three weeks.

The group that limited social media showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks compared to the control group. Due to their findings, the university strongly suggested that limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day may lead to significant improvement in well-being.

Along with adverse mental health effects, social media invites FOMO or the fear of missing out. Jerry Bubrick, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, states that “FOMO is really the fear of not being connected to our social world, and that need to feel connected sometimes trumps whatever’s going on in the actual situation we’re in. The more we use social media, the less we think about being present in the moment.”

Elaborating on Bubrick’s words, adds, “We might be occupied with worrying why we weren’t invited to a party we’re seeing on Instagram … But if we’re always playing catch-up to endless online updates, we’re prioritizing social interactions that aren’t as emotionally rewarding and can actually make us feel more isolated.”

In my own life, I have put posts and pictures over being present. It could be a Friday night, and I am sitting in my dorm scrolling through my phone, seeing all the fun things my peers are doing. These posts make me pity myself, and I question my actions and why I am not happy like them.

As I enter a cycle of self-loathing, I fail to recognize those pictures and videos are a fraction of the big picture. You never know the real story behind the filter, and you never know what is outside of the frame.

Although it is easy to feel isolated by social media, they are solutions so you can stay present. For example, you can turn off social media notifications and put time limits on social media apps. Also, spending more time fostering healthy real-life relationships aid in the disconnect that can arise when we connect to posts and updates.

Being active on social media does not mean you have to lose living in the moment or feel isolated. It is virtually impossible to disassociate from snaps and stories, but you can recognize that there is a whole world beyond the screen. It is a world full of rainy and sunny days, hardship and triumph, and likes or comments do not limit it.