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  • Writer's pictureCayley Jorgensen

Beyond the Filters: Unwrapping the Impact of Social Media on Festive Season Mental Health

Disclaimer: It is important to seek support early if you or a friend is experiencing difficulties with mental health. Your symptoms may not go away on their own and if left untreated, they can get worse. Please seek support from your mental health provider, doctor or clinic nearby. To speak with a mental health counsellor, call SADAG on 0800 456 789.

The festive season is a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness. However, the advent of social media has added a new layer to the holiday experience, influencing mental health in both positive and negative ways.

In this blog post, we explore the impact of social media on mental health during the festive season, examining the challenges it poses and offering practical measures to mitigate its effects.

Positive and Negative Impacts:

Social media serves as a powerful tool for connecting with loved ones, sharing special moments, and building a sense of community. However, it also has a dark side. The curated and idealised versions of people's lives presented on these platforms can lead to feelings of inadequacy and loneliness, especially during the festive season. The comparison game becomes more intense as individuals perceive others enjoying seemingly more fulfilling or extravagant celebrations.

The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a real phenomenon exacerbated by social media, with users feeling the pressure to participate in picture-perfect holiday events. The quest for a flawless holiday experience online can contribute to heightened stress and anxiety.

Social Media and Emotional Responses:

Scrolling through platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok exposes individuals to a barrage of holiday-related posts, pictures, and videos. This can evoke emotions such as envy, shame, and loss as people engage in upward social comparison, measuring their lives against perceived ideals.

Push notifications play a role in this constant exposure, making it challenging to escape the holiday cheer online. For individuals going through tough times, whether due to a recent breakup, loss of a loved one, or other challenges, these reminders can be emotionally challenging.

Vulnerability Across Age Groups:

While social media affects individuals of all ages, teenagers and young adults are often considered more vulnerable. This demographic is in a stage of life where social validation is crucial, making them prone to comparing themselves to their peers online. However, adults can also face mental health challenges related to social media, particularly if they are susceptible to feelings of inadequacy or already dealing with mental health issues.

Statistics on Festive Season Depression:

Specific numbers on depression during the festive season due to social media are challenging to pinpoint, as depression is a complex condition influenced by various factors.

However, according to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), 20% of South Africans are affected by holiday depression. Globally, 1 in 3 people face mental health challenges, with depression being the most common form of mental illness and the leading cause of suicide worldwide.

Mitigating Social Media Pressures:

To alleviate the impact of social media on mental health during the festive season, individuals can take proactive measures:

  1. Set Boundaries: Establish specific times for social media use and stick to them. Avoid excessive scrolling, especially during moments that should be enjoyed offline.

  2. Unplug Occasionally: Take short breaks from social media, especially during festive events, to be fully present and engaged in the moment.

  3. Reality Check: Remember that social media often portrays a curated version of reality. People share highlights, and it's not an accurate representation of their entire lives.

  4. Limit Comparisons: Avoid comparing your holiday experiences to others. Each person's situation is unique, and the goal is to create meaningful and enjoyable moments for yourself.

  5. Practice Gratitude: Focus on the positive aspects of your own life and what you are grateful for, rather than dwelling on what others may be doing.

  6. Seek Support: If feelings of depression or anxiety persist, consider talking to friends, family, or a mental health professional. They can provide support and guidance during challenging times.

As we navigate the festive season in the digital age, it's crucial to be mindful of the impact social media can have on our mental health. By setting boundaries, practicing self-care, and seeking support when needed, individuals can enjoy the holidays in a healthier and more meaningful way, both online and offline.


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