Mental Health and Social Media

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On June 14th, 2017, 12-year-old Mallory Grossman took her life away after being told to kill herself on Snapchat. A girl who was extremely involved, bright, and enthusiastic, was completely tormented by bullies online. It all started at school, but she could never escape the bullying once she got home and hopped on social media. They sent the 12-year-old mean messages through posts on Instagram and Snapchat, calling her “fat”, “a loser”, and even more cruel, proposing her to kill herself. Consequently, this turned her life upside down, affecting her grades, personality, and emotional well being.

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Eventually, Mallory’s parents had a meeting with the school about the bullying, but it was too late. The victim had already committed suicide later that evening. Teenagers are at risk when they dedicate their time to social media. While others will continuously argue the positive influence of social media, it has only caused teenagers to develop poor body images and mental disorders.

First of all, social media causes a negative impact on teens’ mental health by making it difficult for them to achieve a positive body image. In the ebook Body Image and the Media, Celeste Conway reports that, “According to the Girl Scouts of America Research Institute, nine out of ten girls say they feel a lot of pressure from the media to be thin and 31 percent of the girls interviewed admitted to starving themselves as a way to lose weight” (14). It is safe to say that spending time on social media causes girls to feel negative towards their own bodies and turn to inappropriate ways to lose weight. It is crucial for someone, especially young teenagers, to feel good in their own skin and develop a positive body image at a young age. When teens use social media, the pressure to be perfect will continuously build up, and they can never learn to love themselves for who they are. Therefore, limiting the usage of social media can help increase teens’ self-confidence and allow them to feel appreciated. Along with that, photoshopped images on the media also creates pressure for teenagers. In the article “Negative, positive effects of excessive social media use on teens studied” by Baltimore Sun, suggests through a study conducted by London’s Royal Society for Public Health that poor body image reflects the usage of Instagram and Snapchat, sites that are heavily photoshopped.

According to the study, body image problems are more likely to occur after spending a significant amount of time on these social media platforms. This demonstrates how social media gives an illusion of a “perfect” body to teenagers and spotlights a way everyone should look. Due to Instagram and other social media sites, teenagers are manifested with photoshopped pictures that hide people’s flaws. Models and celebrities are usually thin and pretty, or tall and muscular, while teens admire them and want to look like them. Because these are the people they look up to, teens have the urge to compare their bodies with the glamorized ones they see in the media. If a teen develops the habit of comparing themselves to others, they will never feel good enough and this will impact their self-esteem in the long run. Regardless, body image problems can still be relevant even after teenagers know the photos they see are photoshopped. For instance, Lexi Kite, who co-directs a nonprofit for promoting positive body image, surveyed 2,000 young women with pictures of models.

The survey revealed that 33 percent of the participants still felt insecure about their bodies after knowing the images were heavily edited (Sole-Smith). Despite knowing that the photos of the models were heavily photoshopped, girls still cannot let go of the unrealistic ideals that social media has exposed to them. Social media makes it so difficult for teenagers to achieve a positive body image because it presents such a perfect and alluring life that draws in young audiences. Certainly, if teenagers didn’t spend time on social media, they would not be bombarded with perfected pictures, and feel less insecure about their bodies. Having a poor body image can lead to serious problems such as eating disorders, unhealthy diets, and using drugs that try to change their bodies. Ultimately, it is evident that social media is a negative influence on teens’ mental health because it makes them feel insecure and essentially establishes a poor body image.

While social media makes it difficult for teens to maintain positive attitudes towards their own bodies, it also provokes mental disorders. Obviously, this has something to do with the increased usage of social media. In the ebook Social Media, Peggy Parks addresses a 2015 study from Ottawa Public Health that observed health survey data from 753 middle and high school students. The research reports that those who used social media more frequently had a higher prevalence of physiological disorders, from depression and anxiety to suicidal thoughts (33). Clearly, this shows that those who don’t heavily use social media are less likely to encounter mental health issues. The usage of social media can obviously damage a teenager’s well being. Mental disorders like depression and anxiety can completely change their life in all aspects, such as how they perform in school, interact with others, and deal with their feelings. Social media can lead them to even more serious actions such as taking their life away. Furthermore, Peggy Parks also explains, “A few studies have found that lonely people tend to disclose more personal information on social media than those who do not feel lonely. Other studies have revealed that when people who feel lonely get on social media, it makes them feel worse” (39). With regard to lonely young teenagers sharing personal information online, this can result in catfishing, cyber-bullying, and harassment that will severely impact their state of mind.

Social media makes lonely teenagers vulnerable and open targets to be bullied by others. Not to mention, that dedicating time to social media only makes teenagers feel worse than they already do. If those feelings of loneliness starts to escalate, they may become depressed. Therefore, teenagers should minimize time on social media if they want to feel less lonely and avoid sharing information that shouldn’t be shared. In addition, social media can also make teenagers feel gloomy and moody. Specifically, in the article “Fact Check: How Social Media Affects Your Mental Health,” a study published by The Lancet Psychiatry describes how spending the night on social media increases the chances of mood problems to occur, such as neuroticism and bipolar disorder. In the same way, people also commented that they felt more lonely and less happy after checking social media (“Fact”). Consequently, when a teen is suffering through mood problems, such as bipolar disorder, this can affect their important relationships, performance in school, and even daily tasks in their everyday life. Not only does constantly having a drastic change of moods can cause fights and arguments with the people surrounding them, but this can also interfere with their learning abilities to succeed in life. Since social media is actually making them feel less happy, teenagers should spend their time away from it and instead discover other activities to brighten their mental well-being. Altogether, the fact that social media triggers mood problems and mental disorders, proves how it is a negative impact on teens’ mental health.

In contrast, others might argue that social media can have positive effects on teenagers’ mental health by making them feel socially connected. Referring to the article “Social media can be both bummer and boon for the brain,” it proves “studies reveal that people feel more social support when they present themselves honestly on social media, and they feel less stress after posting.” In other words, social media can have a positive impact on teenagers by allowing them to communicate with their friends online. With the existence of social media, friends can stay connected, support each other, and share comments that will boost their self-esteem. Although, when teenagers get connected on social media, this does not prevent others to mentally abuse them. Going back to the ebook, Body Image and The Media, Do Something, an organization for teens and social change, claims that 43 percent of teenagers have experienced cyberbullying and 75 percent of students have been on websites where classmates were bullied (Conway 29). Undeniably, spending time on social media does allow teenagers to be connected with their peers, but it also exposes them to the world of cyberbullying.

Through social media, false rumors and unconsented information can be shared in an instant. Their own friends and classmates can easily harass them through a screen, and there’s nothing they can do about it. Eventually, the cyberbullying will become more frequent and these teens will become traumatized. As a result, teenagers will mental disorders and may even attempt suicide. Considering cyberbullying, the connection that teenagers feel on social media will also come with jealousy and feeling excluded. The article “Is Social Media Good for Society?” summarises a study directed by CNN of over two hundred eighth graders. The results emphasized how teens felt extremely lonely and jealous after seeing what their friends were doing online (Nakaya). This illustrates how teenagers feel unhappy after seeing the interesting lives and exciting things their friends are sharing online. Social media makes teenagers feel excluded from their friends and depressed that their social lives are not as interesting. Therefore, this can cause toxic friendships where friends are envious and share unkind feelings towards each other. If teenagers avoid social media, they can develop real friendships that are not about who got invited to a certain party and who didn’t. In summary, social media allows teenagers to be connected with their friends online and can brighten their mental health, but, in the end, there are still negative outcomes that can happen.                            

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Mental Health and Social Media. (2021, Aug 04). Retrieved from