How Does Social Media Affect Our Mental Health

Social Media and Evolving Technology

 

 

Social Media Mental Health
Social Media Use

 

It has been argued that advancements in technology have improved the lives of millions of people, for example, Smartphones are an item that many people especially within the UK and US cannot envisage living without.

Many teenagers have grown up in a world that has become more and more reliant on digital technology. This reliance and incorporation of digital technologies into our lives has resulted in performing tasks, such as social networking to be second nature to us, to such an extent that social networking does not now necessarily refer to what we do but can instead refer to what we are.

 

 

Social Media Mental Health
Social Media Teenage Usage

 

Many people’s usage and the extent of their usage of social media platforms can result from social pressure, due to the high number of people using these platforms. These platforms will often be used to communicate, learn about and keep updated about events and share information. Therefore, many people will feel a strong need to be part of this online community in order to meet these practical and psychological needs, this feeling has frequently been termed as FOMO, which is the abbreviation for ‘fear of missing out’. Therefore, people can feel that joining social media is a way to prevent them from missing out and connecting more with others around them.

Some have argued that this herd mentality and the need to be part of the group/community has an evolutionary basis, as for hundreds, if not thousands of years being part of and aligned with the group/community was often important for increasing an individual’s chances of survival.

 

Social Media belonging
Social Media and Belonging

Teenagers and Social Media Usage

 

What Effects do Social Media Interactions Have on Teenagers?

Studies have also found that teens between the age of 13-18 that receive a high number of likes on photos show increased activity in the reward centre of the brain, with many teens using the number of likes and comments they receive as a feedback mechanism on how well they have performed and their level of acceptance.

Productivity and Daily Life Tasks

Many studies have demonstrated that significant social media use can result in brain atrophy in grey matter areas of the brain, grey matter areas of the brain. Grey matter areas of the brain are the ‘sections’ where processing occurs, for example, planning, organising, impulse control and prioritising, if these areas of the brain become impaired than we can experience problems with getting things done and thus our productivity and possibly daily routines, can become negatively affected.

Reward-Centred

Many studies have also shown that those who receive a ‘like’ on a post can receive a rush from receiving this ‘like’, especially if the person is waiting in anticipation to see if their post will receive a ‘like’, this is due to experiencing a dopamine release, often being tied more to anticipation than to the actual reward , in this case, the anticipation of receiving a ‘like’ on their post.

 

 

Social Media and Mental Health
Social Media: How Many Likes

 

 

Social Acceptance

Other studies have found that teens were influenced to like photos, regardless of content if these had received a high number of likes, demonstrating the heard mentality on these platforms, the use of social media interaction as a feedback mechanism – tied to self-worth and acceptance and the need to feel aligned with the group/community.

So how has meeting these human needs affected their growth and usage rate?

 

Growth of Social Media Usage and Platforms

 

Social Media Usage and mental health
Social Media Bar Chart

 

Many of the social media platforms that people now use have grown exponentially, for example, social media platforms such as Facebook now have around 2.2 billion monthly active users. Twitter has around 335 million monthly users. The platform Snapchat reached 166 million in the first quarter of this month. The number of users of Instagram is set to surpass 111 million and the video sharing platform Youtube, now has over 2 billion users. This demonstrates the significant influence that these platforms have upon our day-to-day lives.

One study found that we spend around 50 minutes of time on social media platforms every day.

Social media usage from teenagers, according to previous research, is as follows, 66 percent use Facebook, 76 per cent use Instagram, 75 per cent use Snapchat, 47 per cent use Twitter and 30 per cent use Tumbler or Linkedin. Trends in teenage usage of social media has seen a move from Facebook to platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram, however it is also worth noting that Instagram is owned by Facebook.

Social Media and mental health
Social Media Platforms

 

Most communications by teenagers on these platforms are carried out through text-messaging and for many adolescents, text-messaging is now more likely than person-to-person interactions.

Some of the reasons argued for the popularity and extensive use of these social networking platforms are there ability to meet certain fundamental human needs such as social support and belonging, these are often considered fundamental human needs as for much of human existence social support from the group/community was important for survival.

Another way in which social media is often utilised is to use this platform for self-expression, self-expression on these platforms would enable the person to form an identity and get feedback from the group/community, as feedback would be an important variable in formulating an online social identity.

 

Social Media Effects: Differences Between Adults and Adolescents

Recent research has shown that sharing information on social media increases life satisfaction and decreases loneliness for adolescents but yet sharing on social media has the opposite effect for older adults, suggesting the impact of social media use on individuals can vary, based upon age and a person’s stage of life.

So what are the documented physical and psychological effects on people of using social media frequently?

 

Effects of Social Media on Mental Health.

 

Social Media and Health
Social Media Impact Upon Psychological Health

 

There have been a number of studies and reports showing that high usage of social media can lead to mental illness, while in contrast there have been many other studies and reports that have shown that the effects of high social media usage on mental health are minimal.

Some studies that have focused on mental health have found the following mental health related issues regarding social media use these are anxiety, decreased self-esteem, feelings of inferiority, eating disorders and declining focus on work. Other studies argue that at the very least, high social media usage can lead to dysfunctional and negative impacts upon daily living. One study found a negative correlation between time spent on social media and negative body image feedback, it found that those who spent more time on social media had a much higher risk of reporting body image and eating concerns when compared to peers who who did not spend as much time on social media.

 

Social Media Mental Health
Social Media and Mental Health

 

As was previously mentioned a frequent term used regarding social media use is FOMO, which is an abbreviation for ‘fear of missing out’ and is defined as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent, FOMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.”

 

Social Media mental health effects
Social Media FOMO

Higher levels of FOMO have been associated with lower general mood, lower life satisfaction, lower wellbeing and increased engagement with Facebook Some studies have found FOMO to be associated with social media addiction

This would suggest that FOMO could become a predicator or potential component of social media addiction and could potentially impact negatively upon a users daily functioning.

Other studies have found that young adults who spent a lot of time on social media were more likely to have sleep problems and develop symptoms of depression. Poor sleep has also been attributed to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression and physical problems such as, but not limited to, a weaker immune system.

 

Social Media Sleep and mental health
Social Media and Sleep

 

So what are the individual and societal advantages and disadvantages of frequently using these social media platforms?

 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media Usage

 

Advantages

 

Face-to-face social skills and social anxiety: Many adolescents are hardwired for socialisation, social media makes the ability to socialise very efficient, convenient and easy.  People who suffer from social anxiety or feel that they have poor social skills could benefit from using social media as these people may avoid, and not have much, face-to-face contact with others, so social media platforms may give them an opportunity, which previously did not exist, to socialise with others.

People who suffer from social anxiety disorder may not experience the same levels of anxiety, when communicating on these platforms, as they do when they communicate face-to-face with others, therefore this may offer them an opportunity to communicate with others and express themselves through using this online platform.

Marginalised Groups: People within marginalised groups, such as people who experience mental health issues, could find that they are able to express themselves more often and have greater opportunity to communicate and interact with others through using these online platforms.

Communication Efficiency: Regardless of location people can instantly communicate with another using social media. It can also be used to communicate with several people at once by using Facebook Groups. This efficient way of communicating with others from any location at any time, enables people to share their thoughts, find out useful information and learn from others in a short space of time.

Good Causes: Social media groups or pages can be used to promote good causes and share information with others to spread awareness of societal issues and topics that are important to people or that may better their lives. Due to most social media platforms usage being free, other than paid ads, social media can be a cost-effective way to spread and share important messages with others.

New Information: The latest updates on an issue, news story or trend can be shared instantly on social media with others. This enables people to be quickly informed, updated and act quickly on events that they deem important.

On occasions where news channels may edit a news story to convey a certain message or interpretation, social media can be used to provide the truth about an event, for example, through someone uploading or live streaming the event directly from their Smartphone to a social media platform.

Helping People: Sometimes social media can be used to reach out and ask for help from others, examples of this could be when a person wants other people’s opinion on something before they proceed to take action or when someone in your community or near by have lost something such as a phone or have a lost a family pet such as a dog or someone has been missing for a period of time. These can often be posted to social media to ask for peoples help and assistance. One example of this is that the police will now often use social media as part of their strategy in appealing for and obtaining information about a crime or a suspected crime.

Education: People can use ‘Groups’ created on social media that are focused upon certain topics in order to not only socialise, but to educate themselves on a topic. People can educate themselves within these groups from having conversations with other group members and from reading articles and information posted within these groups.

 

Disadvantages

Addiction: This can be described as the dark side of social media. Teenagers are found to be the most effected by social media addiction. Their extensive use of social media platforms to communicate and interact with others can result in them cutting themselves off from society. Social media addiction can also take time away from productive tasks or relationships with others within their households and daily lives, therefore affecting the persons close relationships, productivity and wellbeing.

Physical Health Issues: Excessive use of social media can result in people spending a lot of time sitting in the same position on their computer, this results in them not getting much exercise, such as walking and exercising. Social media can therefore distract people from exercising and doing other physical activities that can be beneficial for their physical health.

Negative body image problems:

Professional Reputation: Someone can impulsively post a comment or image on a social media platform that they later regret and which may impact upon their professional or personal reputation. Also, people can create false stories about others on social media platforms and have this shared with thousands of people. Businesses can also be affected by posts or comments which can harm their brand image/personality and reputation.

Cyberbullying: Many children and adolescents have been victims of cyberbullying. The relative ease in creating fake social media accounts has made this quite extensive. Threats, intimidation, rumours, slanders can be sent to hundreds if not thousands of people in a short space of time

Security Problems: Various security agencies have been found to have access to many people’s personal accounts. Many people have also had their accounts hacked into by hackers and by people attempting some type of fraud.

Less Face Time: Social skills require practice, it may be hard to build these social skills if people spend most of their time communicating and interacting online, rather than communicating face-to-face.

 

The previous research suggests that there are advantages and disadvantages to the widespread use of online social networking. There is a wealth of studies suggesting that there can be detrimental effects both psychologically and physically to excessive social media use. However, the key is learning to use social media in moderation through balancing communications online with face-to-face in-person communications and balancing social media usage with productive daily tasks. The wealth of information from previous research and reports published should help us to understand and have greater awareness on social media addiction and also to get a better understanding on when social media might be negatively affecting a person’s daily functioning, wellbeing and mental health.

 

I hope everyone enjoyed this article.

If anyone has any thoughts or opinions on this subject area then please leave these in the comments section below.

Thanks everyone.

 

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