When we talk about “impact”, social media is one platform that justifies the term in all its meaning. The effect social media has on people is undoubtedly visible with every passing day. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that the largest impact has been on mental health. Research and general behaviour of people show this.
May 20 marked the last day of the “Mental-health awareness week”. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Studies reveal that in a large number of cases, mental health is directly linked to massive social media usage.
The link with social media
Mental health woes have many causes. However, researchers demonstrate that in young people, the causes link with social media. Also, an indirect factor linked to social media is anxiety. Research has shown that two-thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor in this.
How much is ‘too much time’ on social media? – Studies, research and facts
According to WHO, depression is slated to be the leading cause of disability. Now, research funded by the National Institutes of Health says that, for young adults, heavy social media use is correlated with depression. The research, published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, was the first nationally representative study exploring the link between social media use and depression. It looked at close to 2,000 young adults between the ages of 19-32. Each participant took an established depression assessment tool and answered questionnaires on social media use. This included the 11 most used platforms at the time: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, Google+, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Vine.
Consequently, the more time a young adult uses social media, the more likely that person is to be depressed.
According to a survey in 2017 by the Royal Society for Public Health, British people aged 14-24 believe that Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter have damaging effects on their well-being. On average, these social networks worsened anxiety and depression and deprived them of sleep. Social networking also exposed them to bullying and created worries about their body image. Studies reveal that “FOMO” (“fear of missing out”) is the most damaging perception youngsters imbibe. Academic studies have found that these problems tend to be particularly severe among frequent users.
Teenagers may use social media to find community, however, their mental health is often negatively affected by the culture of comparison
Iyanla Vanzant, American lawyer and inspirational speaker, had once said that “Comparison is an act of violence against the self”. Constant comparison and scrutiny on social media, of self and others, lead to anxiety among many teenagers. It affects people differently, depending on pre-existing conditions and personality traits.
“Social media, to some extent, does lead to a disconnect. The possibility of new connections is taking us away from real connections that we already have in our lives. I won’t deny the fact that it’s helpful and productive. However, setting boundaries is important. As for stress, it’s a definite part of life. Positives and negatives go hand in hand. However, we need to ensure that stress shouldn’t emerge from something which, to a great extent, is a completely unknown world.” – Pallavi Pareek
Pallavi, Founder and Managing Partner at Ungender, believes that the bigger challenge is addressing and acknowledging this issue. She says, “Teens are not the only ones suffering. I’ve seen grown ups suffer too. Social media has become an industry of its own. No doubt, over-engagement of social media does lead to mental health problems. If you talk about teenagers, the amount of peer pressure riding on them and the validation they seek online is something which leads to larger problems, insecurity being the first. Insecurity leads to anxiety and further affects mental capacity. Earlier, appreciation from parents and close ones was enough for us to believe in ourselves. People, however, are now seeking likes and opinion polls online, from people they don’t know personally at all, to validate whether they’re good enough or not.”
“I agree with the fact that massive use of social media leads to a number of problems, mental health being number one. Increasing engagement with unknown people online has become a common practice. The virtual wold is disconnecting us from the real one. The addiction has got to most of us. We’re constantly using our social media profiles to cover every important event in our lives.” – Ankita Joshi, 21, MBA student.
Recognising the alarming state of mental health
The first step would be recognising that excessive social media use actually undermines your health. We can’t deny that social media’s benefits outweighs its negative side. However, sometimes, it serves as a platform for troublesome occurrences at both individual and societal levels.
Bhawana is an intern with SheThePeople.TV