Is Social Media Damaging your Mental Health?

With the rise of social media, people are creating online personas that are vastly different than their real lives. Unfortunately, with the various social media outlets, we are constantly bombarded by the whereabouts of our peers, but what we see is filtered. I often find myself looking at the posts of my friends or acquaintances and comparing myself to them and what they are doing, but I’ve come to realize that what we see online, and what that persons life is actually like are two completely different things. I have watched the Snap Chat stories and liked the Instagram pictures of my high school friends partying and appearing to have the time of their lives, but when I talk to them, many have revealed that they are struggling to adjust to college and feel completely alone.

All of this made me want to research how exactly social media affects mental health and self esteem. A study conducted by Ottawa Public Health analyzed 750 teenagers on their social media habits and mental health. It turns out that 25% of the teenagers they analyzed reported using social media for at least two hours a day, and that same 25% also reported having symptoms of anxiety and depression, and having suicidal thoughts. While it can’t be proven that this is not due to reverse causality, either way, there is a connection between social media and mental health. It is possible that teens with mental health issues are turning to social media to fill voids they experience in person, but it is also possible that teens who spend too much time looking at the profiles of others online and comparing themselves to them is causing them to feel anxious and depressed.

Unfortunately, there are not many studies on this issue, as it is something that has developed over the past few years. New apps and social media platforms have recently emerged and the social media addiction is something that is increasing, so hopefully more studies will be done. While the lack of studies means that we cannot come to a definite answer, we can think logically about this issue and come to some possible conclusions for ourselves.

When we go online and see what everyone else is doing at any given moment, we are often overcome with the fear of missing out. We fear that we are missing something great, missing something that others will talk about, and missing a connection with other people. This often causes anxiety and feelings of depression, as we feel less worthy or like what we are doing at that given moment isn’t good enough. Personally, I look online and see thousands of posts about what people are doing. All of the posts are happy and funny, and in my sad moments, looking online makes it all worse. When I am feeling sad, anxious, or missing home, I often feel alone because it seems like everyone else is doing great, at least from their online profiles that is. The truth is, people are only posting their good moments, and creating an unrealistic persona.

Here is an example which shows that no matter how amazing and happy someones online profiles portray them to be, their reality might be drastically different.

Sources:

Gregoire, Caaroline. “Heavy Social Media Use Linked With Mental Health Issues In Teens.” Www.huffingtonpost.com. N.p., 28 July 2015. Web.

Callahan, Maureen. “Our Double Lives: Dark Realities behind ‘perfect’ Online Profiles.” Nypost.com. N.p., 11 Oct. 2015. Web. 19 Oct. 2015.

 

7 thoughts on “Is Social Media Damaging your Mental Health?

  1. Jada Baity

    I think that as technology becomes more advanced, we do need to start taking mental health issues into consideration. With everything being at the tips of our fingers (such as what your boyfriend is doing at that exact moment) it is time to question if it is having an effect on us mentally. It took a long time for my parents to jump on the modern bandwagon and allow my brother and I to get smart phones. At first, the apps and everything were super cool. But then I started noticing that because of my phone, I read less and I saw people face to face less and less. I also found that I would purposely not look at social media for fear that something I saw on it would ruin my day. I am able to control myself and tell myself to not look at unpleasant things on my phone because I went most of my life without such advanced technology at my disposal. But what about the people who all they know is social media so they can’t help but take out their phone and look at the upsetting things that ruin their day? These upsetting things are inevitably going to effect the way people view the world around them and even how they view themselves. Mental health issues are most definitely linked to technology and I think we would be doing our society a disservice if we did not look into this issue even more.

  2. Alyssa Kaplan Post author

    Alexandra, I think you have great point about what entertains people. It is certainly true that people are probably not interested in the negative aspects of peoples lives, however the point I was trying to make was about whether the incessant posting on social media is worth the mental and emotional toll it takes on people. You’re exactly right, people aren’t posting the tough parts of their day, therefore others often feel alone when they are struggling. For the people that feel this way, is it worth it to them to have several social media accounts? Maybe not, however they probably feel pressure to have them because their peers have them.

  3. kbd5161

    I really connected to this post because I too have seen so many Instagram posts and snapchat stories of people from my high school partying and “having a great time” in college, but then when I talk to them they seem to be having such a difficult time adjusting. I think it is a really interesting thing to study, why we as a generation are so obsessed with what our peers see that we put up a fake persona of what we wish our lives were. Social media and technology has become such a problem because we are not even posting for our enjoyment anymore and to avoid the “fear of missing out.” FOMO has become obsolete, and has now transformed into a “fear of people THINKING i’m missing out,” because we have become so obsessed with making sure it looks like we are having the time of our lives. Too often people are recording their fun social times instead of actually living them. We miss so much of our lives in front of a screen instead of actually remembering it. Thank you for this post, I’m glad someone else has noticed this just as much as I have. I wish there were more studies on this so that our generation would wake up (myself included sometimes) and realize that life is happening right now and it does not always need to be posted to snapchat/twitter/facebook/Instagram, because in reality, no one else really cares what we do.

  4. Brendan Feifer

    Hi Alyssa,
    In one of my humanities courses we studied Ralph Ellison and the concept of the mask . This mask, as Ellison first alluded to years and years ago, is the mask that we use to show the world a different identity that is more appealing. Social media is the perfect platform because of this. Social media has also eliminated interpersonal communication skills. The study in which you analyzed had expected results. Either way, there are so many social media users that this study can’t be exonerated of the Texas sharp shooter theory. The topic you blogged about has tons of potential for future blog post and yours specifically is an excellent read!

  5. Alexandra Herr

    Social media has gone above and beyond accomplishing all of the tasks that it was set out to do. With more than 1 billion people on Facebook, 300 million on Instagram and nearly 1 billion on Twitter, social media has reached the lives of so many people in so many places across the world. I find it kind of daunting that the profiles we are viewing, or even creating, are a facade of the real thing. However, I don’t think this is a bad thing necessarily–it’s just human nature. Who wants to go online each day to see a picture of a girl sitting alone in her dorm eating chips and watching Gossip Girl? This isn’t the entertainment people are looking for; social interaction and development is. Even though a lot of it is fake or posed, they were still there in the moment and the image captured has to have some bit of truth to it. Maybe the real question to be asked is why people aren’t entertained as much by the real stuff, not the fake, posed pictures? It probably relates back to how the human brain works, so maybe consider that as a future topic!

  6. Anastasia Skold

    I agree that social media has this sort of bubble that goes along with it and that we only see what the person posting wants to see. I thought that it was interesting when you said that mental illnesses and social media could be a product of reverse causation. I never really thought about the topic in that light. I found an article that I thought you may find interesting. It has both the benefits along with the disadvantages of social media.

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