Throughout the past couple of decades, there has been a rising concern regarding the correlation between social media use and mental health issues. Although there is a connection between increased social media usage and an increase in mental instability in young adults, it is still uncertain why social media may be causing it. In order to understand the impact social media has on our minds, we must first explore the basics.
What is Social Media?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines social media as “forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos).” Some people also use social media as a way to network socially and professionally.
Overall, social media and technology have evolved throughout the years, which has changed the way in which we communicate. How many social media websites do you use each day? How many of those sites are listed below? Based on your own personal experience, what do you think make them so popular?
The Top 13 Most Popular Social Networking Sites and Apps of 2019
What is Mental Illness?
Mental illness is defined as “any broad range of medical conditions (such as major depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, or panic disorder) that are marked primarily by sufficient disorganization of personality, mind, or emotions to impair normal psychological functioning and case marked distress or disability and that are typically associated with a disruption in normal thinking, feeling, mood, behavior, interpersonal interactions, or daily functioning.”
The Cons of Social Media Use
Sure, social media has some benefits, but there are many negative effects as well. To start, users may become addicted to their devices which can cause eye strain, social withdrawal, or lack of sleep. Additionally, people tend to research their problems instead of reaching out for real help. As a result, the information found online is often inaccurate and people may become more stressed thinking there is no hope. Also, social media can cause a decrease in confidence and self-esteem. Platforms such as Instagram consist of scrolling through endless amounts of photos. In turn, a user may feel inadequate or negatively compare themselves to unrealistic photo-shopped images or to the rich lifestyles of celebrities.
Social media can also cause a disconnection from friends and family members. Before the internet, we could easily pick up the phone and call a family member. Nowadays, we already see what our family is doing and their whereabouts. Therefore, we may not feel the need to check in and see how a family member or friend is doing.
Know The Warning Signs
If you find yourself doing any of the following behaviors, you may be at risk for developing a social media addiction or social media-related mental illness.
- Constantly checking social media platforms throughout the day
- Keeping connections online through social media statuses/posts rather than on the phone or in person
- Checking social media first thing in the morning and right before you sleep
- Feelings of panic when going long hours without it
- Getting upset if people don’t like and/or comment on your updates
- Taking down posts that don’t draw a lot of reaction
Cold Hard Facts
The internet has 2.8 billion active users out of the 7.6 billion on Earth. Also, did you know that 88% of teens have seen someone be cruel to another person on a social media site?
85% of parents with teenage children ages 13-17 report that their child has a social networking profile. Not only that, but 29% of people have also reported being stalked or contacted by a stranger on social media. With that being said, there are many dangers. First of all, platforms like Twitter, Snap Chat, and Instagram very rarely censor sexual content, substance abuse, or other inappropriate behaviors (even though their terms and conditions imply so). On Twitter, users can easily look up pornographic videos from adult entertainer’s or see their favorite musician’s smoking, drinking, or using illegal drugs. Wiz Khalifa, famous rapper with over 30 million Twitter followers, is just one of many examples.
On the other hand, Snap Chat is known for the sending and receiving of photos with silly filters, right? Wrong. Many users are utilizing the platform to sell and promote their nude videos or photos. It’s known as “Snap Chat premium” and is a private monthly subscription for followers who wish to view explicit content from famous social media models and influencers. Last but not least, social media use ultimately causes a lack of productivity and increased multitasking which can result in unsafe driving.
Mental Illnesses Linked to Social Media
Depression can be caused by a feeling of failure. When it comes to social media, one may feel unable to meet the expectations presented by other users online. Hence, resulting in a feeling of low self-worth or unhappiness. Next, continuous distraction by platforms can lead to the inability to focus on a single task. Thus, leading to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Social media can also increase addiction, personality disorders, or eating disorders. Body and food conscious posts may cause heightened levels of stress and anxiety surrounding the “perfect body image.” Eating disorders can also stem as a result of cyber bullying and body shaming.
What Can Be Done?
Social media is not all bad. As with anything, it is all about moderation. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or being affected mentally by social media, reach out to someone. A few ways to improve your mental health is to substitute your social media time by participating in activities with family and friends who support and care about you in person. Put down your phone or device when you are with others. Next, set a firm boundary and don’t cross it. Luckily, most smart devices have an ability to set up screen time per day. Also, be aware of how long you’re spending online and always aim for lessening your duration each week. Last, stay away from content that looks dangerous, harmful, or triggering.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides referrals to support groups, mental health professionals, and resources: 1-888-333-2377
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline connects callers to trained professionals: 1-800-273-8255
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America gives information regarding prevention and treatment options: 1-240-485-1001
Children and Adults with Attention-Defecit/Hyperactivity Disorder maintains information and referrals on ADHD, including support groups: 1-800-233-4050
The National Institute of Mental Health provides statistics and research: 1-866-615-6464
The National Domestic Violence Hotline supplies 24/7 crisis intervention, safety planning, and information on violence: 1-800-799-7233
To see my reflection or more about this project and what I learned, click here.
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