Social media is useful for many things, such as keeping up with daily news, buying and selling products, building a network, etc. However, I believe the overuse of social media can have detrimental consequences on one’s mental health.
Over the past 20 years, social media use has skyrocketed. With the creation of Myspace in 2003, Facebook in 2004, Twitter in 2006, Instagram in 2010 and Snapchat in 2011, social media has become the top platform of communication around the world. This allowed people to share their lives with others through pictures and status updates, and served to connect people to others, and it did so successfully. But what is not discussed as often is the negative effects it has on people, especially teenagers and young adults.
Many studies have been conducted that support the relationship between increased social media usage and mental health. A study conducted by Ethan Kross and published on the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health looked at the relationship between Facebook use and mental well-being in young adults and adolescents. He found that those who went on Facebook up to five times a day for two weeks had a low self-esteem and life satisfaction. In another study conducted in 2017 by the UK Disability Charity Scope, the results showed that out of the 1,500 Facebook and Twitter users, 62% reported feeling inadequate and 60% reported feelings of jealousy from comparing themselves to others.
Social media often gives a false reality to what is really happening in someone’s life. We see photos of celebrities and so called “social media influencers” on extravagant trips and at fancy parties, but we rarely see what they are up to during their down time. The lifestyles and images they portray are often not realistic for those who follow them, and can leave many, especially young people, feeling like they aren’t good enough. This doesn’t only apply to the rich and famous, but also people we know and follow. We see photos and posts from these others and often subconsciously compare ourselves to them. This can lead to feelings of low self-worth, anxiety and depression.
Not only does it give unrealistic expectations, but it can also be addicting to many, young and old. Before the creation of social media, many relied on communicating with others over the telephone. When social media first was created, it was to be used as a means of communicating with many people. The concept was good, and there are many advantages to social media usage, but as it grew more popular and more platforms were created, many started to become dependent on these websites and apps and would spend all day on them.
Researchers at Chicago University concluded that addiction to social media can be as strong as an addiction to alcohol or cigarettes after an experiment they conducted in 2012. This addiction is especially seen in young adults and adolescents, who I believe are the most vulnerable to feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth.
If you look around now, everyone around you is on their phone. I often catch myself being out with friends or family and mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or Twitter without even realizing it. We have all become so conditioned to being on these apps, and hardly focus on what is happening around us. This can cause issues within our relationships as well as in settings like school and work. Overusing social media can often cause us to forget about the responsibilities we may have, which can have consequences such as low grades and loss of jobs, which are also factors that can contribute to decreased mental health.
While social media is useful for keeping up with friends and family members, connecting with new people, and keeping up with the latest news, we should all be wary about the amount of time we spend on these platforms, and make sure to take time for ourselves to put the phone or laptop away and focus on what is going on around us, not just on a screen.