Social Media and How it Impacts Mental Health

May 20, 2021
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DesiGirl

This is a guest post by DesiGirl from the Mental Health Diaries, who along with L4dyDMC, creates insightful mental health content. Check out their website and blog for more brilliant articles.

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

Hope you all are doing well and taking at least one hour each day to engage in some form of self care.

Today we will be talking about how social media impacts our mental health and mental illnesses. This is such a crucial topic in today’s world, especially with young adults. The first form of social media dates back to 1997, a website called “Sex Degrees”. After that many platforms followed, such as Friendster, AIM, MySpace, Orkut, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and most recently TikTok.

As a kid in elementary and middle school, the most common social media platform was AIM and MySpace… however if you did not have social media texting was acceptable too; but once Facebook was developed and it was “invitation only”, that’s when I remember seeing this shift in our reality. I recall as a Freshman getting an invitation and creating a Facebook profile in between periods.

At first, it was just adding whoever had a Facebook, but once everyone had a profile it became a popularity contest. Slowly, our world evolved into a cyber world; dictating what our reality world would look like. My girlfriends and I would sit with our iPhones and laptops posting pictures, posting statuses of our EVERY move, and trying to figure out who was dating who. I do not know how many times Facebook has broken up friendships and relationships… Facebook had become our world. Then around college Instagram came out and off we were posting pictures of our food and who we hung out with and where. Amongst all that there was Twitter where we'd post our thoughts, and Tumblr to write in our online diary. Eventually, it became not only exhausting maintaining those profiles but also the persona that came with them. I had become obsessed with the amount of friends I had and if I lost any friends I would spend HOURS trying to figure out who unfriended me and/or blocked me. My life was dictated by my social media accounts. When I posted a picture on Instagram, I would sit watching the “likes” number increase and would become so upset when my pictures did not receive a certain number of likes. I remember crying and skipping out on a midterm in college because I was so upset that 5 of my “friends” had unfriended me and blocked me on Facebook and Instagram, for reasons I do not remember today.

Thinking back I am embarrassed by my obsession over how many friends or likes I would have on my social media platforms; however, this obsession and addiction has only gotten worse with the new generations.

In February, an article titled, The Social Dilemma: Social Media and Your Mental Health by McClean Harvard Medical School Affiliate talked about the impacts of social media on mental health. The author reported 69% of adults and 81% of teens use some form of social media on a daily basis. Indicating that more than half of our population uses social media and experiences the euphoria it gives our brains. They also showed that the majority of teens use social media as a validation technique.

Let me expand on that, teens and adults correlate their self worth based on the amount of likes they receive on a post or how many friends they have on their platform. Social media has become this imaginary tool, where individuals use their “friends” posts as a measuring tool of how well they are doing. For example, when a person see's a picture of their friends new iPhone or new car… this will make the individual feel like they are not “successful” if they're unable to afford those items. Another example is obsessively watching our “friends” posts and believing that what we see on their profile is who they are as an individual. Teens correlate the “likes” to their self-esteem and whether they “meet” these imaginary standards that social media has set.

Now, where does mental health/mental illness come into play?… The trauma caused by these platforms and what is on them is associated with the development of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. This is especially true among young adults. According to an article posted last year, 67% of teens reported feeling worse about their own lives, 73% reported feeling pressure to post content that boosted their appearance to others, 60% reported feeling pressure to tailor content for popularity and likes, and 80% reported to being impacted by social media drama. Looking at the numbers, it is evident that social media has a negative impact on young adults, the biggest being cyberbullying and the lack of information and interventions available for victims.

Now, social media is not all bad, the study above mentioned the positive impacts as well. 73% of young adults reported feeling a sense of support and community on social media, 53% reported feeling some form of connection to their friends feelings, and 93% reported feeling more connected to their friends lives.

From a mental health perspective, I have seen social media help individuals with mental illness as well as cause further damage to their mental well being. Social media is here to stay and I think it is time that parents, educators, and counselors begin to educate themselves on the negative impacts of social media so we can help our youth.

Below are the two articles where I have incorporated the data from, please feel free to read more on the effects of social media on mental health.

DesiGirl

Sources:

https://www.mcleanhospital.org/essential/it-or-not-social-medias-affecting-your-mental-health

https://www.healio.com/news/psychiatry/20201005/social-media-use-may-play-important-role-in-youth-suicide-expert-says

Thank you again L4dyDMC and DesiGirl for contributing this post!

You can read Part 1 of this blog post here!

DesiGirl
Mental Health blogger and content creator.

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