mental health and social media

While social media has revolutionized the world, it has proven to have a significant negative impact on our health and well-being. In this module, we will take a look at how social media negatively impacts our mental health and what can be done to curb social media dependency.

A deep dive into "Instagram Depression"

Millennials and Gen Z'ers grew up with access to the internet and a slew of different hi-tech gadgets. New research suggests that the increased amount of hours this generation spends online directly correlates with an uptick in teen depression and suicidal thoughts, as well as other psychological disorders. 

 

In the #StatusOfMind survey published by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society for Public Health, 1,479 young people answered questions about how social media platforms influenced different issues related to their mental or physical health. While there were some benefits associated with social networking, the negative responses heavily outweighed the positive.

Those surveyed reportedly experienced bullying, low-self esteem, lack of sleep, and “FOMO” (fear of missing out) due to their excessive use of social media. Previous studies have often suggested that young people who spend more than two hours a day on social networking sites are far more likely to report feelings of psychological distress.

The findings of the survey concluded that Instagram is the worst outlet for a young person’s mental health. “Seeing friends constantly on holiday or enjoying nights out can make young people feel like they are missing out while others enjoy life,” the #StatusOfMind report states. “These feelings can promote a ‘compare and despair’ attitude.”

The authors of the survey also state that social media posts can set unrealistic expectations and create feelings of inadequacy. This may explain why Instagram, where personal photos are the bread and butter of the app, received the lowest scores for body image and anxiety.

The authors of the survey also state that social media posts can set unrealistic expectations and create feelings of inadequacy. This may explain why Instagram, where personal photos are the bread and butter of the app, received the lowest scores for body image and anxiety.

Chris Pisarik, a nationally licensed psychologist, explained that young girls are more vulnerable to the negative psychological effects attached to social networking websites.

“Its different for girls because when boys are on their screen, they’re playing video games,” Pisarik said. “When girls are on their screen, its social. A lot of the social cues they get, a lot of that social interaction, many times is not positive… and so it seems to be having an affect on girls self-esteem and levels of depression.”

study published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science found that increased time spent with electronic devices might have contributed to a rise in the symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts over the last several years amongst tweens and teens — especially among girls.

Jean Twenge, the San Diego State University psychologist who led the study, explains in her report that there is a much more significant risk of suicide attempts, thoughts of suicide, and depression when a young person spends more than three hours online per day.

Twenge says the surveys asked students to respond to statements such as “life often feels meaningless,” or “I feel my life is not very useful,” or “I feel I cant do anything right”. Between 2010 and 2015, Twenge discovered the number of young people who answered “yes” to three or more of these questions increased considerably: from 16 percent in 2010 to 22 percent in 2015. Findings concluded that these feelings increased significantly among girls, who were six times more likely than boys to report symptoms of depression. This is commonly referred to as "Instagram Depression."

Top ways social media negatively affects mental health 

1. Social media is addictive​​

Chances are, you check your social media immediately when you wake up and just before you go to bed. In recent years, states have had to adopt "hands-free" laws because checking social media has quickly become one of the leading causes of road accidents. Researchers at Nottingham Trent University have coined the term "Facebook Addiction Disorder" to describe the overarching psychological effects of social media usage. According to their research, this addiction can lead to mental preoccupation, neglect of personal life, mood modifying experiences, social detachment, and more.

2. Can lead to low self-esteem issues

Experts have argued that excessive use of social media can lead to self-esteem issues. When you spend too much time on social media, it is easy to compare your life to the "highlight reels" of others. You are also more susceptible to cyberbullying, misinterpreted comments, and unrealistic expectations due to other users utilizing filters and photoshop.

3. Feeling isolated from the world

There is a big difference between interacting with people online and being with the in real life. Even though social media was built to connect the world, it can easily cause us to become extremely disconnected. When chatting online, you lack the physical connection -- this can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

4. It may lead to anti-social behavior

Today, social media encompasses so many interesting games, music, and videos which encourage one to stay online for hours on end. In fact, the average American spends two hours a day on social media -- some people can spend between 3-5 hours a day on social media. People would rather socialize on social media than actually go out and socialize in public. Spending too much time on social media can cause one to miss out on real life.

5. Cyberbullying

Cases of cyberbullying are increasing rapidly. In fact, according to UNICEF, one in three people have admitted to being a victim of some sort of online bullying. Cyberbullying can lead to anti-social behavior, loneliness, anxiety, and depression.

6. Can lead to obesity due to unhealthy snacking

Overuse of social media can cause one to partake in unhealthy snacking. When spending time on social media, it is easy to get distracted and overeat. Similarly, you may miss out on necessary exercise which can lead to additional health issues.

7. Can lead to depression

Researchers believe that the use of social media has contributed to a rise in cases of depression around the world. In the United States, the suicide rate has increased by 25% since 1999.

Recognizing social media addiction

Do I spend a lot of time thinking about social media or planning to use social media?
Do I feel urges to use social media more and more?
Do I use social media to forget about personal problems?
Do I become restless or troubled if I am unable to use social media ("FOMO")?
Do I often try to reduce my use of social meda without success?
Has my social media usage negatively affected my job/relationships?

If you answered "yes" to more than three of these questions, then you may have or be developing a social media addiction.

As a precaution, you should partake in a "digital detox": a period of time during which you reduce the time spent on electronic devices (smartphones and computers) or you completely abstain from usage. To do this you can:

  • Turn off sound notifications on your phone 

  • Turn your phone on "night mode." This will stop any notification from popping up on your screen for an allotted amount of time

  • Only check social media sites once an hour

  • Deactivate social media accounts completely

  • Turn off your phone for a predetermined amount of time everyday

  • Find a hobby that doesn't require any sort of technology

If you find that you are suffering from a social media or technology addiction, visit addictioncenter.com for help. Click "learn more" to be taken directly to their website.

Remember, it is never weak to ask for help. 

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