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.
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.