11 Worst Social Media Apps Ruining Mental Health & Privacy


We all know social media sites can be addictive and hurt our mental well-being, but what about the apps themselves? It turns out several social networks are ruining our mental health – and our privacy. Here are the worst social media apps:

  1. Facebook
  2. Instagram
  3. TikTok
  4. Twitter
  5. YouTube
  6. Discord
  7. Reddit
  8. SMS/ MMS
  9. Clubhouse
  10. WhatsApp
  11. LinkedIn

Read on to learn more about these services, why they’re problematic, alternative social platforms, and the best way to use social media safely.

Woman addicted to likes and hurting her mental health.

Worst Social Media For Mental Health

Mental illness is becoming a severe problem all over the world.

The Harvard School of Public Health estimates that the global costs of mental health issues will increase to $6 trillion by 2030.

According to WHO, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for people aged 15-29 years old. This increase in suicides has happened simultaneously as social media has become more popular. Some people worry that there might be a link between the two.

Do you think social media apps are bad for mental health?

A growing body of research suggests the negative impacts social media apps have on mental health.

For example, one study found that in 13–15-year-old girls, greater use of social media apps is associated with self-harm, depression, and lower self-esteem.

Social Media Platforms Affecting Mental Health

1. Facebook

Facebook is a social networking site that lets people connect with friends and family online. People use Facebook to share updates, photos, and thoughts with their friends.

What kind of effects do you think the Facebook app has on mental health?

Facebook can be an excellent tool for staying connected with friends and family. It can also be addictive and distracting.

A French researcher found that 69% of Facebook addicted users showed anxiety symptoms, and 48% showed signs of depression.

Other studies showed a link between Facebook addiction and obsessive-compulsive traits. Users seem to experience a craving- the urge to check Facebook (assimilated to compulsions) regularly.

2. Instagram

Instagram is a photo and video sharing app that allows users to share images and videos with their followers. Pictures and videos can be edited with various filters, and users can add captions to their social media posts.

What effects do you think the Instagram app has on mental health?

Instagram can adversely affect mental health precisely because it facilitates comparison culture and a negative self- or body image.

When people are constantly bombarded with images of people who look “perfect,” it can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

It’s also important to remember that Instagram is a curated platform. People only share the best, most filtered versions of themselves, creating an unrealistic expectation for how “normal” life should look. This idealistic viewpoint can be highly damaging for people already struggling with mental health problems.

Woman holding a smartphone and wondering what are the best privacy settings for instagram.

Before you move on to the next social media site, adjust your Instagram privacy settings using this easy guide.

3. TikTok

TikTok is a social media app where users can create and share short videos with others on the app. It’s owned by ByteDance, the company that also owns the popular Chinese social media app, Douyin.

What effects do you think the TikTok app has on mental health?

TikTok has been criticized for spreading the trend of physical shame and negatively impacting people’s bodies, conceptions about themselves, and society.

According to reports of watching TikTok videos every day, social platforms are flooded with unrealistic ideals of what the body should look like, affecting someone’s self-esteem.

Kaufman, an active TikTok body activist in 2020, said, 

“When I first downloaded TikTok, I saw a lot of very negative body image videos.”

4. Twitter

Twitter is a social networking app that lets you share short messages, called tweets, with other Twitter users. You can also follow other users’ tweets to see what they’re up to.

What kind of effects do you think the Twitter app has on mental health?

The short-form micro-blogging platform can make it difficult for users to keep track of the firehose of information. This speed of updates may cause a fear of missing out (FOMO) as users struggle to consume the torrent of posts on the social platform. 

Like other social networks, Twitter is also a breeding ground for negativity. Users often fire-off emotionally charged, mean and aggressive tweets, which increases levels of distress and feelings of anxiety and depression.

Twitter often battles a stream of misinformation and fake news, which is retweeted and spreads virally, adding to the noise and negativity.

Woman using the okay sign while holding smartphone showing the best twitter privacy settings.

This guide shows you the best Twitter privacy settings you can set for your account.

5. YouTube

YouTube is a website where people can upload videos they have made or watch videos that other people have made. Users can also comment on videos and share them with their friends. YouTube has a lot of different types of videos, including video clips from TV shows, music, short-form videos, movie trailers, and more.

What kind of effects do you think the Youtube app has on mental health?

YouTube allows users to rate and comment on videos. This can be a good thing, as it enables viewers to provide feedback and share their thoughts on videos. However, the comments sections of videos can also be dangerous, as they often contain hate speech, insults, and other harmful content.

Discord install page.

6. Discord

Discord is a cross-platform VoIP and chat app following millions of users, especially gamers. It’s simple to use and lets you easily find, join, and chat with friends. It’s often used for gaming communities, schools, work teams, etc.

What effects do you think the Discord app has on mental health?

The Discord app can adversely affect mental health, especially when users engage in competitive gaming.

Gamers have a stereotype of slinging toxic communication during intense play. Players often resort to verbal abuse, offensive language, mockery, and bullying tactics to throw the opponents off-kilter. Such behavior is facilitated by the anonymity of the online platform, making it easy for people to say things they’d never say face-to-face.

7. Reddit

Reddit is a social news website where users submit content in links or text posts. Other users can then vote on these submissions, and the posts with the most votes are placed higher up on the site’s front page.

The site has a voting system that allows users to “upvote” or “downvote” submissions, and this system decides which type of content appears on the site’s front page.

What kind of effects do you think Reddit has on mental health?

Reddit can affect people’s moods and emotions. It can be an excellent outlet for connecting with others and exploring new ideas for some people. But for others, it can be an addictive and isolating experience.

It’s essential, to be honest with yourself about how Reddit affects your mood and emotional well-being. If you’re spending more time on Reddit than you’d like or that it’s causing you distress, then it might be time to consider taking a break from the site.

Worst Social Networks for Privacy

It’s not just mental health that suffers on social media. Privacy is often overlooked.

Facebook (Meta) & The Filter Bubble

It’s worth mentioning Facebook again in this section on privacy. This company’s well-documented abuse of user data extends intrudes into their privacy to algorithmically create and trap users in a filter bubble. This overly personalized stream of information about the world glues users into the platform, stroking confirmation bias’s innate human instinct. Users’ beliefs and interests become a feedback loop the longer users interact with the platform. 

Facebook’s systems continuously feed visitors anything that will keep them engaged instead of showing users a variety of different opinions. 

8. WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a cross-platform mobile messaging app that allows you to exchange messages and call friends and family using your phone’s Internet connection.

WhatsApp upgraded its encryption protocol to ensure that the communication content can’t be read by unauthorized entities since version 2.16.2 (released in April 2016).

According to researchers Nidhi Raastagi and James Hendler, encrypting end-to-end channels alone is not enough to preserve privacy. The metadata collected from WhatsApp can be used to figure out connections between people, their patterns, and personal information.

What would Facebook, the parent company, get from metadata-related information coming via WhatsApp?

WhatsApp said that it would not be selling ads. However, no condition can stop the parent company from mining users’ information and usage data.

When combined with data from Facebook users, WhatsApp’s metadata can help create a more accurate understanding of people’s behavior and social interactions. This can be used by Facebook to better profile people for targeted ads.

9. SMS/MMS

While not a traditional social media platform, SMS and MMS messages provide a communications network. The problem stems from the design of this 1990s technology. 

This system was never designed with security and privacy. Its very nature lends to retrievable, clear-text content logged by one or more third parties.

When you send a traditional text message, your phone transmits the plain text message without encryption to the nearest cell tower. That transmission contains the destination number and the date and time of your text. The cell tower then forwards that information along to the recipient’s carrier. The sender and the recipient’s rough locations are also logged in the non-private chain.

Even if you securely store your phone’s data, law enforcement can efficiently obtain SMS and MMS records from mobile service providers. And because your text messages are routed through third-party carriers, there’s a good chance they’ll be stored in their databases permanently.

Ever wonder why you received an SMS that says “Liked” then quotes a previous text message? I figured it out and why it’s REALLY bad.

10. Clubhouse

Clubhouse is an audio-only social networking app that launched in April 2020. It allows users to listen to other people’s conversations, interviews, and discussions about a topic of interest. Currently, you can only join this app if the people who are already members invite you.

Compared to other well-known social media networks, Clubhouse collects less data about its users. Because it’s an audio-only app, it doesn’t require access to your camera or photos.

However, the app Clubhouse needs access to your phone’s contacts so you can invite people. Some people worry that the company uses its profile information without transparent consent. 

11. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a professional networking app that allows you to connect with colleagues and other business professionals. It can be used to find jobs, identify potential clients, and build your professional network.

By default, LinkedIn shares information about your current or most recent job title and company. It also shows the number of connections you have at that company.

Suppose you’re not comfortable with this level of disclosure. In that case, you can adjust your privacy settings to prevent this valuable information from being displayed publicly. You can also choose to keep your profile private so that only people you’ve approved can see it.

Confused businessman wondering what are the best linkedin privacy settings

Even though the social network focuses on professionals, it’s still a good idea to walk through this guide to editing your LinkedIn privacy settings to help secure your account.

But what if you still want to use social media without all the problems I’ve discussed? Let’s explore some alternatives.

Telegram homepage on a cell phone.

Alternative Social Networks

Are you looking for an alternative social media network that is safe and secure? Check out some of the options listed in our article about the 11 Safest Social Networks. The list includes social media platforms such as:

  • Telegram: an alternative to standard SMS and MMS
  • Keybase: an alternative to Slack and Discord
  • Mastodon: a federated (distributed) alternative for Twitter and Facebook
  • Minds: an alternative replacement Medium

These social platforms were designed with privacy and freedom in mind. 

So, whether you’re looking for a new way to stay connected with friends and family or want to avoid censorship, check out the alternative choices.

Best Way To Use Social Media Safely

Like most people, you probably use social media every day. But are you using it safely? 

Here are some general tips to help you stay safe online.

  1. Be aware of the privacy settings for each social media platform and use them accordingly to protect your information.
  2. Don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t want other people to see
  3. Delete cookies and browsing history regularly.
  4. Block anyone who is harassing you or making you feel uncomfortable.
  5. Report any inappropriate content or behavior to the social media site administrators.
  6. Use strong passwords and change them often.

Mike Chu

Mike is a web developer and content writer living as a digital nomad. With more than 20 years of devops experience, he brings his "programmer with people skills" approach to help explain technology to the average user. Check out his full author bio by clicking here.

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