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Don’t Let Social Media Give You the Year-End Blues

Consider reducing social media time if you feel anxious or depressed.

Key points

  • Social media use worsens symptoms for those prone to depression or anxiety.
  • There are several reasons why social media use can contribute to decreased well-being during the end of the year.
  • You can actively engage in non-social media activities during this time.
Source: tommaso79/iStock

Do you tend to have anxiety or depression symptoms during the holidays? If so, it might help to reduce your time on social media, as it can amplify negative emotions. A recent study found that people with symptoms of depression or anxiety tended to be high users of social media. In addition, the more they use social media, the worse their symptoms. Although this study did not specifically address mood and anxiety levels during this time of year, you might want to be mindful of your use to protect your mental health.

There is a lot of pressure to have a joyous season; unfortunately, not everybody has a positive experience. Between loss, family conflict, financial insecurity, and a whole gamut of other issues, this can be a stressful and challenging time for many. A recent poll from the American Psychiatric Association found that almost one-third of respondents expected to feel even more stressed this season compared to last year. Much of this stress was related to financial difficulties.

The Problems With Social Media Use During the Holidays

  1. Social comparison: When people post on social media, they often post the best things happening in their lives. The end of the year often amplifies this tendency. Social media feeds are filled with pictures of beautiful decorations, happy families, and travel to beautiful destinations. As you scroll through social media and see picture after picture like this, and if your life pales in comparison, it’s only natural to feel bad about yourself. What you don’t see is the family dysfunction, financial stressors, mental health problems, or any unhappiness that might also exist in these people’s lives. When you are already in a depressed mood, it’s often difficult to have a critical eye on social media. It only makes you feel worse about yourself and your life.
  2. The FOMO (fear of missing out) potential: Seeing pictures and videos of family members and friends who live far away and have gotten together during the holidays without you can feel very painful and isolating. It could be even worse if there are pictures of people together who do live near you and did not include you in their plans.
  3. Unnecessary anger: Social media gives everyone a soapbox who wants to express their opinion. Seeing people on social media with strong beliefs that conflict with yours can stir up anger and contribute to depression and anxiety symptoms.
  4. Reassurance-seeking difficulties: I previously wrote a post about people who use social media for reassurance-seeking and validation. It could backfire if you feel bad about yourself, post on social media, and do not get the validation you want.

What to Do Instead of Being on Social Media

  1. Reach out to friends and family in other ways: Isolation during this time can be a problem for many people, so reaching out to loved ones is essential for feeling connected to others. Make a list of people you enjoy talking to, and consider including people with whom you lost touch. If you are reluctant to reach out to those you haven’t spoken to in a long time, know that they might appreciate hearing from you.
  2. Move more: Extensive research has shown that increasing exercise and physical activity can help decrease symptoms of depression and low mood. The challenge is that when people feel down, they are less likely to want to exercise. If you need help figuring out where to start, list all the possible things you would be willing to do indoors and outdoors. Choose activities from that list that feel most doable.
  3. Help others: Volunteering can be a great way to elevate mood. Consider the different causes that are important to you and look for opportunities to contribute in a meaningful way.
  4. Make a gratitude list: Make a list of all the things you are grateful for in your life. As you make a list, let each item sink in, and think deeply about each one.
  5. Consume media that lifts your mood: Is there a beloved book, movie, or TV show that makes you laugh or feel good? Consider revisiting it.
  6. Get creative: If you enjoy art, crafts, cooking, or any creative endeavor, use the extra time to take on a project.
  7. Spruce up your space: If you have downtime during the end of the year, you can use it as an opportunity to donate unused items, clean up that area that has been bothering you, or even add more lighting in your home. The shorter, grayer days that occur during the season might contribute to dips in mood, and the addition of more light could be helpful.

Be Mindful of Your Social Media Use

This can be a time with a lot of different emotions. If you are prone to sadness or anxiety during this time, be mindful of the amount of time you spend on social media and how it makes you feel. There are a lot of other things that you can do with your time that could lead to feelings of improved well-being.

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