Exploring Toxic Positivity On Social Media

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated April 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

There is a growing trend online that promotes positivity by saying things like “good vibes only.” On social media, many accounts are promoting positive mantras and encouraging messages meant to be uplifting. In theory, this may seem beneficial; in reality, it can be toxic.

Toxic positivity is a concept that promotes a positive, happy mindset no matter how difficult a person’s experience is. The power of positive thinking is an idea that books and other media outlets have focused on for decades, but with the growth of social media, the idea has exploded. The idea of positive thinking can have its benefits. For example, a 2018 study of college students found that positive thinking and high self-esteem were interconnected and led to more resilience.

However, practicing or promoting positive thinking as the only solution can invalidate people’s emotions. Toxic positivity can make people feel that it is not okay to sometimes have feelings that aren’t positive. This can put pressure on individuals to pretend that they are happy even if they are not. In addition, toxic positivity may allow people to ignore the real-world problems that contribute to mental health concerns, and it can invalidate mental illness in general.

How does toxic positivity affect your mental health?

It's okay to feel frustrated with constant positivity

Having a positive mindset isn’t what is toxic. The problem is minimizing and demeaning any negative emotion in general. If an individual is going through a difficult time in their life, telling them to be positive likely won’t change what they are going through, and it probably won’t miraculously make them happy. Instead, it may make the individual feel as though it is wrong to feel sad, anxious, or angry. This stigma can discourage an individual from seeking the support or treatment that they need.

As humans, we naturally experience a wide range of emotions, both good and what some would consider bad. It’s all part of the human experience, and denying any of these emotions takes away from that, which may create more problems down the line. Toxic positivity can become an unhealthy coping mechanism that masks our emotions but doesn’t relieve them. A recent study that tested the link between acceptance of emotions and mental health found that individuals who consistently accepted their emotions experienced fewer negative emotional responses. 

How to overcome toxic positivity on social media

Toxic positivity has become a trend on social media and may seem like it’s everywhere. Social media often has a reputation for being bad for your mental health, but this may depend on how you choose to use it. Studies have found that social media can have both positive and negative impacts on mental health. On the plus side, social media can be used to provide emotional support, build communities, and provide an outlet for self-expression. However, social media use has also been linked to depression, anxiety, poor sleep quality, cyberbullying, poor body image, and overall decreased life satisfaction, among other things.

If you come away feeling bad more often than not after spending time on social media, it may help to reevaluate your relationship with it. While many of the accounts promoting positive mantras and messages appear like they should help, they may only put a band-aid on what a person is experiencing. Repressing our real feelings often does not make them go away.

Unfollow, mute, detox

To minimize your exposure to toxic positivity, you may find it helpful to unfollow any social media account that doesn’t leave you feeling good. If it’s a friend whose toxic positivity is bringing you down and you feel uncomfortable unfollowing them, you might choose to restrict or mute them, and they will never know (on some platforms).

Instead, you might choose to follow accounts that you find more relatable or that inspire you. 

If you find yourself scrolling through social media and you’re not getting anything good out of it, it may also be beneficial to limit the amount of time you spend on these platforms each day. You might try changing up your routine and spending more time doing other activities, such as connecting with others in person.



If toxic positivity on social media makes you feel isolated, journaling can be an effective way to express your emotions. Research shows that journaling can have a number of benefits for both your physical and mental health. One study published in The Arts in Psychotherapy showed that journaling led to a reduction in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and hostility among participants.

It can be easy to develop obsessive thoughts around whatever we are going through. Journaling may help you identify the emotions you’re feeling so that you can break negative thought patterns and begin to heal.


Toxic positivity can leave many people feeling unsure about whom they can talk to about the difficult times they are going through. Connecting with a licensed therapist can be an effective way to combat the negative effects of toxic positivity. A therapist may be able to serve as an unbiased professional who validates your emotions and experiences. Through therapy, you may learn that it’s okay to not always feel okay. You may also learn how to heal and move forward.

Just having someone you trust actively listen to you—whether you’re telling the good or the bad—may positively impact both your mental and physical health. One study found that having someone to listen to you may make your brain more resilient and lead to greater cognitive function as you age.

If you’re going through a difficult time and don’t feel up to visiting a therapist’s office, you might benefit from online therapy. Numerous peer-reviewed studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of online therapy for a variety of mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.

With an online therapy service like BetterHelp, you can connect with a licensed therapist from home or wherever you have an internet connection. You can talk with one of thousands of licensed therapists by phone, video call, or online chat at a time that’s convenient for you.

Counselor reviews

Take a look below at some reviews of BetterHelp therapists from people experiencing similar challenges.

“Michelle was the first therapist that had an actual human reaction to my troubles. I wasn't met with ‘I'm so sorry to hear that’ or some gratefulness exercise or toxic positivity. I felt I was heard and validated in my feelings. Like it was okay to be sad. People say that but it's rarely practiced. I'm very thankful to have her in my life.”

Learn More About Michelle Owens

Getty Images
It's okay to feel frustrated with constant positivity


While a positive mindset can have many benefits, it can become toxic when people force it on you instead of validating your emotions. At times, it may seem difficult to escape toxic positivity on social media. If you are experiencing high levels of stress or symptoms of depression and anxiety, you are not alone. It may help to talk to someone who understands and won’t dismiss your emotions. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed therapist who has experience in whatever challenges you’re facing. Take the first step toward healing and contact BetterHelp today.
Learn how to cope with challenging events
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started