Is Social Media Making Your Self-Harm Worse?

August 24, 2020 Martyna Halas

Is social media increasing your self-harm urges? Scrolling through social media is an everyday activity for most of us. We can lose ourselves in it for hours on end. However, our digital obsession can have a detrimental effect on our mental health. It could even become a self-harm trigger for those who suffer from low self-esteem.

Self-Harm and Social Media: Are They Related?

Social media channels like Instagram have been under a lot of criticism lately. Research suggests that vulnerable teenagers are under higher risk of self-harm or suicide due to graphic images that depict self-injury, sadly still available on such platforms.1 

It’s not just the exposure to self-harm-related content, though. People of all ages can easily fall down the vicious spiral of self-doubt and self-hatred because of excessive screen time. And it could be due to seeing something as innocent as a vacation photo on their Facebook feed.

Low Self-Esteem, Self-Harm, and Social Media

How many times have you looked at someone’s post thinking to yourself, “Wow, my life is so hopeless compared to theirs.” Or, “Gosh, I am so fat.”

How about watching your favorite celebrities on Instagram and feeling bad because you can’t afford their glamorous lifestyle. Or uploading a selfie, only to delete it minutes after because it didn’t get enough likes. 

Sounds familiar? I bet everyone can relate to these negative thoughts. Sadly, they could serve as potential triggers to those who struggle with self-harm urges and low self-esteem.

What to Do When Social Media Fuels Your Self-Harm Urges

If you ever feel like the digital world is dragging you down, the easiest thing to do is log off and take some off-screen time. I know it’s difficult, but let’s acknowledge this: social media obsession is a form of addiction. You will feel uncomfortable or even angry at first, but trust me. After a day or two, you will regain some healthy perspective on your social media usage. 

Does it mean you have to quit? What if social media is your job, or you don’t want to miss out? There is another way: screen moderation and developing a healthy relationship with the online world. 

Next time you hear negative self-talk after viewing a post, consider doing the following to reduce self-harm that social media can cause:

  • The content you see is what marketers call “highlight reels.” Each moment we decide to share is merely a snapshot without a context. Nobody’s life is perfect all the time.
  • Never let others attribute value to you with likes and shares. We may be the product on social media, but we’re certainly more than that in real life.
  • Finally, make good use of the unfollow button. Take note of the type of content that usually upsets you, and start your social media cleanse. Instead, follow accounts that inspire and motivate you. Think of it as a diet for your mind.

Is social media affecting your self-harm urges? Let us know in the comments section below.


  1. George, M., "The Importance of Social Media Content for Teens' Risks for Self-Harm." Journal of Adolescent Health, July 2019.

APA Reference
Halas, M. (2020, August 24). Is Social Media Making Your Self-Harm Worse?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Martyna Halas

Find Martyna on Facebook, InstagramMedium and on her blog.

Lizanne Corbit
August, 25 2020 at 7:37 pm

These are points that everyone who is active on social media needs to be aware of. I am so glad to come across this conversation being had here in the Healthy Place space. Social media is rampant for comparison and we know how damaging that can be. Your suggestions for mindful usage are spot on and I think ones that truly any and everyone should put into practice. Thank you for sharing!

August, 31 2020 at 8:23 am

Hi Lizanne,
Thank you for your comment! I do think social media can be very harmful, even to a person who wouldn't normally suffer from low self-esteem. It's so easy to fall down the comparison spiral. Switching off helps to gain some perspective. Plus, it teaches us to appreciate the joys of the offline world :)
Have a wonderful day!

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