Social Media & Mental Health

by Thom Hiatt

Recently I was asked, “Would you accept $10,000 cash if you knew a stranger in a far away land would DIE immediately because you accepted the gift?”

I won’t go into my answer, but the question becomes, “Would you participate in something that benefits you, if you knew it was harming someone else?” And this leads me to social media.

For years I have shared my feelings that social media is a necessary evil. The very platform that helps me and you to share our organization’s messages, also very much hurts others. It is important that we each understand our role in using social media, while also being aware of the ways it can do so much damage to others.

There is a proven connection between social media, low self-esteem and self-harm. Regardless of the user’s age or gender, social media can create a distorted view of reality and can lead to comparisons with others. Whether the user is 9 or 90, this distortion can cause individuals to feel inadequate, not good enough, or inferior. Social media can also contribute to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression. And all too often, these feelings lead to self-harm and suicide.

  • Comparison: Social media allows individuals to constantly compare themselves to others, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy.
  • Unrealistic Expectations: Social media can create unrealistic expectations of beauty, success, and happiness.
  • Body Image Issues: Social media can contribute to body image issues, as individuals are exposed to constant images of seemingly “perfect” bodies.
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): Platforms can create a sense of FOMO, as individuals see the highlight reel of others’ lives and can feel like they’re not measuring up, essentially forcing them to participate.
  • Cyberbullying: Social media can be a breeding ground for cyberbullying, which can lead to humiliation and embarrassment.
  • Constant Validation: Social media can create a need for constant validation, and a deep desire for comments/hearts/stars/likes that can lead to feeling worthless if not met at high enough levels.
  • Social Isolation: Individuals may spend more time online and less time interacting with others in person. Or, when self-esteem hits a low enough point, the individual may begin to pull away from people both online and in person, as they wish to avoid the very people and situations that make them feel bad in the first place.

So, the more we use social media to share our organization’s messages, news, promotions and invitations, the more we want people to use the very platform that can have a significantly negative impact on their mental wellbeing! How can a nonprofit, a private school, or a local parish take advantage of social media, without feeding the terrible issues above? Consider the following:

  • Like so many things in life, use it in moderation. If your organization is constantly on social media, you are telling others that it’s okay to be constantly on social media.
  • ALWAYS link back to your own website or to a personal visit at your office or campus. At the end of the day, you want to pull people from social media to your site, and to you in person.
  • Share positive information that does not come across as braggadocious. Just be real.
  • Use your positive posts as INVITATIONS for others to PARTICIPATE with you face-to-face.
  • Accept comments on your posts, but do your best to limit your interactions that take place within the walls of social media. Whenever possible, convert those interactions to a phone call or a face-to-face visit. Again, use social media as a short-term tool to find people and bring them in to your real-life organization; don’t use social media as a “second world” that you live and operate within.
  • Be human in your posts. Acknowledge that things aren’t always perfect at your office, as this helps others to ‘feel okay’ about their own struggles and ‘less-than-perfect’ lives. This also helps them to feel understood and welcome on your campus and when they meet others.

And no, I would not take the money.

At Faith in Marketing, we welcome your feedback. Write to and share your thoughts. If you are experiencing a crisis and need help, dial 988 for the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, 24 hours a day. Or learn more on their website at