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  • Writer's pictureLiz Morrison, LCSW

Social Media is Probably Fueling Your Anxiety, Depression, and Perfectionism & Here’s What You Can Do About It

Let’s face it: If you’re a teen or young adult living in today’s world, there’s no avoiding social media. Apps like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube serve as ways to connect with friends and strangers alike. Plus they’re sources of trends, entertainment, local events, and news.


Social media has plenty of benefits. These apps can help you learn a new skill, discover a new recipe, or find local events to attend in your area. 


But social media has a dark side, too. At Liz Morrison Therapy, we work with teens and young adults whose relationships with social media make them anxious, depressed, and lonely.


Rethinking your social media use – and taking occasional breaks from it – can help reset your moods and improve your mental health.


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How Social Media Fuels Depression, Comparison, and Loneliness


Scrolling through your Instagram or TikTok feed, almost all of what you see are perfectly curated images and videos of people’s life highlights. Everyone on social media seems to be lounging in a hammock in Greece, backpacking in the Swiss Alps, or surrounded by loving friends and family. Not to mention everyone looks thin, toned, and gorgeous with perfect skin and hair.


You know intellectually that the reality of their life is probably far different than what they’re posting online. But being bombarded by all the perfect posts, inaccurate as they may be, still fuels depression, loneliness, anxiety, perfectionism, and comparing yourself to everyone else you see. 


This is in part because these apps only show the highlights of everyone else’s lives. In fact, those highlights aren’t even real most of the time. People don’t post their insecurities, arguments, or fears. Instead, someone will post a beautiful video of themselves at a hot spring, surrounded by natural beauty, with a caption like “Enjoying true peace and serenity in nature!”


Here’s what you don’t see: as soon as they put their phone away, they begin to wish they were traveling with a friend or partner. Or they become bored by the hot spring. Or they leave immediately because it’s too crowded. 


But if you’re like most of our clients, you’re taking that video at face value. Maybe you’re sitting on your couch eating your 4th slice of pizza and wondering why you aren’t as adventurous or exciting as they are. You aren’t seeing the reality of what’s happening behind the scenes, so you feel like you and your life are awful by comparison. This is

where depression, comparison, and isolation can set in.


Anxiety and Perfectionism in Social Media


Social media also fuels anxiety and perfectionism. 


Anxiety and perfectionism often go hand in hand, because a perfectionist’s high standards are almost always impossible to fulfill. Therefore, if you’re a perfectionist, you may frequently feel anxious about falling short. If you fall short, it means you’ve failed – and this reflects your value.


Of course, your value has nothing to do with failing or being perfect. But it can feel like it does.


Social media can make anxiety and perfectionism worse because in order to belong and feel accepted, you feel like you need to present your shiniest, most perfect side. If you don’t get enough likes or comments on a post, your self-worth may plummet. If someone says something means about a selfie you post, you might spend days (or weeks, or months) spiraling into self-doubt and worry.


Plus, social media can make it difficult to just be present with whatever you’re doing and whoever you’re with, even if you’re by yourself.


You might find yourself busy taking photos and videos of an experience so you can post about it later, without really taking in the experience itself. 


Additionally, social media can make you feel like you’re missing out, which also increases anxiety. Maybe you see videos of a friend’s birthday party and weren’t invited. Everyone there is having a great time, laughing and dancing, and you’re alone and suddenly panicking that you have no friends and nobody likes you.


This is a terrible feeling. When we feel left out or disconnected from others, a primal fear kicks in that we no longer belong anywhere.


Sometimes the worse you feel about social media, the more tempted you are to use it. The addictiveness of social media has been well-researched. Using the apps provides bursts of dopamine (the feel-good brain chemical responsible for pleasure and reward). The worse you feel, the more likely it is you’ll do something to get a dopamine hit, no matter how negligible– like scroll social media.


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How to Unplug From Social Media and Get Your Life Back


The truth is, nobody’s life is as glamorous as they make it out to be online. Everyone feels sad, down, and lonely sometimes. Many people struggle with mental health issues that are invisible on their feeds. In short: you have no idea what people are going through. And the pressure to be perfect on social media means they’re almost never showing the reality of their lives– only the shiniest highlights.


To decrease some of your feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, perfectionism, and comparison, it’s helpful to set boundaries for yourself around technology.


Here are two ways to do that:


1. Take regular social media breaks.


Try taking consistent social media breaks. Maybe that means no social media for a day every week. Maybe it means no social media for a week every month or two. What feels right for you might not work for everyone else, and that’s okay.


Taking social media breaks can help you feel a little more relaxed. You might not even realize how bombarded you are every day by bad news, ads, and people telling you what you should and shouldn’t eat for breakfast. See how it feels to unplug from all this for a while. It might feel terrible at first, and that’s okay. With time, it gets easier.


Don’t just tell yourself you’ll stop using the apps, either. Uninstall your social media apps from your phone so you aren’t tempted to open them whenever you start to get bored. 


2. Take regular phone breaks. 


Sometimes uninstalling your social media apps isn’t enough, because there is always something you could be checking or doing on your phone. And when you’re constantly checking your phone – even if it’s the calendar or photos app – you’re still sending a message of anxiety to your brain.


To ease some of this anxiety and stress, try taking full phone breaks. Power off your phone (but not before you let family or friends know where you are in case they need to reach you) and put it out of sight. Do this for at least a few hours, or up to a full day or two if you can.


You might be amazed at how much more relaxed, present, and at ease you feel. Of course, this won’t always be the case– your anxiety or depression may linger, and you may feel strange and antsy without your phone around. The more you practice taking phone breaks, the easier it will get to feel good without it nearby. 


Feeling Anxious About Social Media? Consider Therapy For Teens


We understand that practicing habits to help you feel less anxious and curb your social media usage is much easier said than done. If you want support, therapy can help.


We’re here to help you learn how to effectively manage your time on social media, connect the dots between your mental health and social media use, and find ways to decrease your anxiety and feel better. 


Feel free to get in touch with us for a free 15-minute phone consultation. We can answer any questions you have, see whether we’re a good fit, and start working toward a better future today.


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Overcome Your Anxiety, Perfectionism, & Depression With Therapy for Teens in Manhattan, New York City, Brooklyn, and anywhere else in New York

Are you worried about your teen's anxiety, perfectionism, or depression due to social media pressures? Our specialized therapy for teens offers a supportive and understanding environment to help them regain control and find balance. Reach out to Liz Morrison Therapy to start your teen's journey toward a healthier and happier life. Follow these three simple steps to get started:


  1. Contact us to schedule a free 15-minute consultation

  2. Begin meeting with a skilled teen therapist

  3. Start overcoming your anxiety, perfectionism, and depression!

Other Services Offered at Liz Morrison Therapy

At Liz Morrison Therapy, we offer services for the whole family. So in addition to helping your teen cope with their mental health in therapy for teens, our services also include Parenting Support for those looking to create healthy relationships with their children to help them live their best lives, Life Coaching for individuals looking for support, guidance, and real-world strategies to help them deal with their struggles, and Anxiety Therapy for those wanting to cope with their anxiety in healthy ways. For more about us check out our Blogs and FAQs

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