How Social Media Affects our Cognitive Distortions

A guest post by Marie (, Marie!

We see them, and in some cases, we may do this ourselves. We post photos on Instagram containing the highlights of our day: when we feel successful at work, comfortable in our relationship with our significant other, situations in which our cat looks cute (and isn’t scratching our vintage furniture), days when we feel at peace with ourselves. What people don’t see is when we feel anxious, depressed, lonely, angry — or any other negative emotions. They don’t see behind-the-scenes arguments, the mistakes we make or the nights we spend lying awake worried about the future and other things.

How has social media changed our society and overall mental health?

It has changed the medium of our cognitive distortions. Joseph Dillard explains that emotional cognitive distortions are “words or statements that you tell yourself or others than feel true, but when examined factually are found to be irrational.” Logical cognitive distortions may seem reasonable, but really, they’re tactics used to persuade or manipulate while problem solving. Perceptual cognitive distortions are the world views that determine what you think is real life and what is possible. All three of these cognitive distortions contribute to the Drama Triangle, where people participate as persecutor, victim and rescuer.

When we post on social media, we could say the photos and posts are true. We really want to believe they are because they are full of happiness and positive aspects of life. In reality, our Instagram feeds and 140-character tweets are likely emotional cognitive distortions. No one can be happy all of the time, and social media has exemplified the need to be liked and happy in the 24/7 news- and digital-age. From a mental health standpoint, when you see someone who has exactly what you want (a house, significant other, job, child and so on) and that person posts about it constantly on social media, it could affect your mental health. You could feel depressed because you’re seeing everyone’s “happy” posts while you are unhappy.

Here are some ways that social media could affect individuals’ mental health:

It’s an addiction.

More than 63 percent of people use Facebook at least once per day.  If you find yourself checking your phone every five minutes and checking your social media feeds even more, you could have an addiction to social media. You want to check how many likes and comments your posts are garnering, which is an example of all three cognitive distortions. You could present something positive about yourself, and you manipulate an audience to like and comment on it. It determines that your world view is centered on self-esteem built by a social-media platform.

We tend to compare ourselves with others even more.

You see someone else’s utopia and want that for yourself. You begin to ask yourself, “Why can’t I have that?”, which can lead to obsessive-compulsive behaviors and thoughts. We tend to be restless with our lives and have trouble relaxing.

It can lead to cyberbullying.

It’s sometimes easier for bullies to hide behind the computer screen. If you’re in an already fragile state of mind, you could feel victimized in chat rooms, social media sites, private messages or other websites. If you are being bullied online, talk with a mental health professional on He or she can help you wade through the world of social media and cyberbullying.

While there are clear negatives to social media, it can greatly help us socialize and increase our connectivity with the outside world, especially when feeling anxious and depressed. Here are some other pros and cons of social media.

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