TYLER, Texas (KETK) — It’s like playing a slot machine. While social media has become a lifeline to the outside world, the dangers that come with excessive or problematic use should not be overlooked.

“Limit screen time. Make sure that you set a timer because it’s really easy on Facebook or TikTok to just continue to scroll,” said Ana Serratos, Licensed Clinical Social Worker at CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic.

The images on these platforms can exacerbate social anxiety, comparison and perfectionism.

“What we tend to see in our teens, whenever they get angry or upset… creating a post and then they come once they’ve self-regulated, they can come back and then they regret posting that and then they delete it,” said Serratos.

Much like a coping technique, scrolling helps us to zone out or escape reality. Though, comparing your posts to those of others can then cause low self-esteem, heightened anxiety or depression.

“Especially with my teens, but it’s also with my young adults, they’re the ones that are the most active on any social media platform. So they’re the ones that are seeing, you know, someone is getting a car, someone is getting a house and someone else already is getting married, or they’re having kids. It’s this ongoing comparison of, ‘I don’t have that,’” said Serratos.

Creating a daily habit of constant online usage can make one feel more depressed and less happy with life. Especially when compared to those who spend quality face-to-face time with loved ones.

“Online relationships usually are not the best substitute for in-person relationships. They are wonderful sources of connection, but we also need in-person connection. Sometimes, we are helping our clients get to a place where they are a little more comfortable pursuing that in-person connection,” said Brittany Gayetsky, Director of Clinical Operations and Therapist at Mosaic Counseling Center.

Knowing the warning signs can help curb unhealthy behaviors and planning things to limit your screen time can help.

“Getting outside, you know, once a day, getting some sunshine, reaching out to the people that you care about, not just electronically, but in person. Paying attention to the people around you and being able to be more engaged in life,” said Gayetsky.

All while taking the time to focus on what matters most.

“We can’t avoid social media or any social media platform, but if we limit the time, we’ll be better off. Drinking enough water and making sure that you’re eating mindfully,” said Serratos.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness suggests the following for maintaining mental health while using social media:

  • Limit your time on social media (Apple and Google have settings on cell phones to help do this automatically)
  • Unfollow sites and profiles that make you feel bad
  • Report harmful posts
  • Remember what people post may not be real representations of their lives

If you or someone you know is having trouble distancing from social media habits, or feel anxiety and/or depression, it’s recommended to speak with your healthcare provider.

This is part three of a five-part special report on the subject of mental health. Use the links below to catch up on the series: