How social media affects mental wellbeing

Social Media can distort the way in which you remember certain tidbits from your life. Image Courtesy: Pixabay

If alcohol and drugs were considered the most dangerous substances available that could affect not only adults but also the young generation, then the cheaper and even dangerous option is here. Social Media has much adverse effect on mental health than alcohol or drugs, says health experts.

Every social media platform has its own pros and cons but using them too frequently can make you feel increasingly unhappy and isolated in the long run. Some studies have linked prolonged social media and mobile phone use with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

The Upside

There are some positive aspects of social media. It enables teens to enhance their communication skills and social connections. Humans are social by nature and social media makes socializing easy and immediate. Young people who struggle with social skills, social anxiety, or who don’t have easy access to face-to-face socializing with other teens might benefit from connecting with other teens through social media. Barring from social media use could potentially deprive of valuable learning experiences and limit social lives in the present scenario.


The Downside

Read enough of the current research and you’ll find that the negatives tend to feel bigger than the positives. While social media is a great medium to connect with others, they also confront cyberbullying, trolls, toxic comparisons, sleep deprivation, and less frequent face-to-face interactions, to name a few. A report by the American Academy of Pediatrics defines Facebook depression as “depression that develops when teens and preteens spend time on social media sites and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression due to the intensity of the online world.”

Too much time spent scrolling through social media can result in symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. 

A 2015 study by the University of Missouri found that regularly using Facebook could lead to symptoms of depression if the site triggered feelings of envy in the user.

A study published in The Lancet Psychiatry found people who spend the night checking social media are more likely to suffer from mood problems such as neuroticism and bipolar disorder, and rate themselves as less happy and more lonely.

While experts continue to research and find a correlation between social media and its ill effects on health, a rule of thumb is anything in excess is always harmful. 


Future 

It seems unlikely social media use will decrease in the near future, so we need to manage the risks and harness the potential benefits to improve mental health. The impact of social media on our mental health depends on a number of factors, including how it is used. 

And while the risks of these platforms should be acknowledged, so should their potential to help people, especially those already struggling with mental health issues.

There’s a happy medium in here somewhere. The key to helping teens learn to balance social media with real-life friendships is to keep the lines of communication open and keep talking. Honest communication shows your teen that you are there to support, not to judge or lecture. Go and explore the real world out there that doesn’t require a handheld screen (not even a camera click!)

O’Keefe G, Clarke-Pearson K, “Clinical Report-The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families.” Pediatrics. 2011 April; 127(4): 800-805

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22357378

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