The Negative Effects of Social Media on Mental Health
The rapid growth of social media began in the early 2000s and has not slowed down since. The most popular platforms include Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook which all allow people to share photos and videos of themselves, their family and friends, their everyday activities, express their own views and opinions and connect in so many other ways. It has given a voice to anyone with access to a computer or phone and also helps enhance learning opportunities. But social media is known to be addicting which leads to so many of these social media users, especially the younger generation, to spend most of their time just mindlessly scrolling. Places such as classrooms, restaurants, bus stops, or even the gym are just a few examples of where there are always several people on their devices with their heads down refusing to interact with the people around them. Life is definitely different than what it used to be. Parents used to have to tell their children to come inside from being outside and playing all day whether it was with friends playing games, practicing sports, riding bikes and so on. Now parents have to beg their children to go outside just to get some air or exercise instead of sitting around on technology all day. When an individual spends most of their day watching what other people are doing it can lead to the individual becoming more interested in other people’s lives and less interested in their own. It is not as effective as face-to-face interaction and can even be dangerous since there are millions of strangers on the internet as well. Social media negatively effects mental health especially in the younger generation because it leads to users having to deal with a low sense of self, low social skills, addiction, unrealistic body images, feuds with family and friends, and cyber bullying.
Social media can negatively impact someone’s sense of self and well-being because there are constant glimpses into the lives of others and it becomes hard not to compare successes and failures. Humans are curious beings by nature which is why so many people are entertained by vloggers and bloggers on the internet. It’s important to remember that people are only going to post when their life is going well. No one wants to post the bad stuff because everyone wants to put off this image that they have a picture perfect life when that is not the case. No one will post that they got rejected from their dream school, failed a test, lost a loved one, or sat bored at home the night before. People will post if they get accepted to their dream school, ace a test, the birth of a loved one, or if they went out celebrating the night before. Everyone goes through ups and downs in their life and it’s something that needs to be accepted instead of ignored. When social media users are constantly seeing all of this positive stuff, they start to think, “Why aren’t all these good things happening to me?” This leads to the desire of wanting what others have instead of being grateful for all of the blessings in one’s own life. In the article entitled “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?”, Stephen Marche expresses what a college graduate thinks about looking into other people’s lives:
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“When I scroll through page after page of my friends’ descriptions of how accidentally eloquent their kids are, and how their husbands are endearingly bumbling, and how they’re all about to eat a home-cooked meal prepared with fresh local organic produce bought at the farmers’ market and then go for a jog and maybe check in at the office because they’re so busy getting ready to hop on a plane for a week of luxury dogsledding in Lapland, I do grow slightly more miserable” (Current Issues and Enduring Questions, 549).
Seeing pictures of people out smiling, laughing and having a good time can really make someone feel lonely. Having a strong sense of self and well-being is very important in life because this involves knowing yourself, accepting yourself, and trusting yourself. Well-being refers to an individual’s state of being comfortable, happy, and healthy in their own life and this ties into other factors that involve strong confidence, strong self esteem, strong relationships with their friends and family, strong coping mechanisms, and aren’t afraid to openly express their emotions. Marche’s college graduate states, “What does Facebook communicate, if not the impression of social bounty? Everybody else looks so happy on Facebook, with so many friends, that our own social networks feel emptier than ever in comparison. Doesn’t that make people feel lonely? ‘If people are reading about lives that are much better than theirs, two things can happen. They can feel worse about themselves, or they can feel motivated’” (549). This suggests that social media is what you make it, you can either give it the power to hurt you or help you. But if people don’t have that strong sense of self and well-being, it isn’t going to be easy for them to feel motivated. In order to maintain this, people practice healthy ways of living such as healthy eating, healthy sleep patterns, and exercising. Throughout the day, people with a good sense of well-being are productive whether it’s at work or at home. They are in a good state of mental and physical health and they are satisfied with themselves and their daily lives and they don’t feel the need to compare their successes with others because they are genuinely happy. The constant usage of social media can damage this or even block someone from ever reaching these goals because of lessened productivity denying the chance of satisfaction.
It would seem that being extremely active on social media would lead users to being extremely social in real life as well but it’s the exact opposite. Social media strongly affects social skills because online communication is different than face-to-face interaction. Social media users are so used to being behind a screen and not having to deal with all the little things in face-to-face interaction such as eye contact, head nods, and other nonverbal cues. Nowadays, when people don’t want to have to deal with a situation, they look at their phones to avoid confrontation or just conversation in general. You see this when waiting to get into a classroom and all the students are outside, not engaging or meeting other students but choosing to immerse themselves in an online world instead of the one that’s right in front of them. The lack of social skills can lead to distance between families when the younger generations lock themselves away in their rooms so they can talk to their online friends and see what they’re doing. In Jules Evans article entitled “Are We Slaves to Our Online Selves?” she states, “You replace actual loving human relations with the fickle adoration of the public.
How many times do we see people sitting with friends or family at a pub or a restaurant, ignoring them while they anxiously check on their online selves? Our actual selves end up shriveled and unwell, while our unreal mirror selves suck up more and more of our attention” (530). Evans is explaining that users are pushing meaningful relationships to the side in hope of gaining more validity of themselves and explains the lack of socializing that is current in everyday life. Josh Rose is the author of an article entitled “How Social Media Is Having a Powerful Impact On Our Culture”, and in this he asks his friends if social media makes them all feel closer to people or farther away in which his friend responds, “Closer to people I’m far away from.” Then, a minute later, wrote, “but maybe farther from the people I’m close enough to” (Current Issues and Enduring Questions, 555). Rose has a more positive take and explains that although social media is a good way to keep in touch with people who live a long distance away, it can distance you from the people who live right next to you. So much effort is put into the relationships that aren’t physically present while the ones that are physically present have to deal with constant distractions and small effort.
The reason that social media is so addicting is because it gives off the neurochemical dopamine. Dopamine is created in different parts of the brain and is extremely important for everyday brain functions. These would include thinking, exercising, sleeping, motivation, and the search for approval and that instant gratification. When someone provides a hug or a Like on social media, they both give off dopamine resulting in feeling the same way about them and wanting to continue to come back for more. According to the Pew Research Center, in their article entitled “Teens, Social Media, & Technology 2018”, they state “YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, are the most popular online platforms among teens. Fully 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45% say they are online almost constantly.” This shows that a little less than half of these users are admitting to almost never putting their phone down. Social media users get really excited to post a picture in hopes that it gets a lot of likes. They feel that their worth is based off of how many likes they get and if it’s a good amount, provides them with some sort of validation. The amount of likes, views, or shares proves to them how important they are to society and if they don’t get a lot then they rethink or even delete the picture, video, or post. This leads to people further feeling like they aren’t good enough and then they start to question their physical appearance and start to wonder if anyone is even interested in their life. “Our smart-phones are little pocket-mirrors, with which we’re constantly snapping “selfies,” trying to manage how the public perceives us. It’s like we have a profound fear of insignificance and nothingness, so we check the pocket-mirror every few minutes to re-assure ourselves that we exist, that we are loved.
We mistake Likes for love” (Evans, 530). Evans is explaining that the idea of this kind of social media love and acceptance is fake and not healthy and that’s why social media is so addicting, because we want to constantly check to make sure we are still relevant. But Josh Rose feels that, “The machine does not control us. It is a tool. As advanced today as a sharpened stick was a couple million years ago. Looked at through this lens, perhaps we should reframe our discussions about technology from how it is changing us to how we are using it” (555). The point that Rose is trying to make is that it is not a cell-phone or the computer that causes addiction and that is completely right. But the environments that these “machines” provide us, like these social media platforms are addictive because of all the things they offer. Everyone seeks that feeling of instant gratification and those small busts of euphoria and belonging and it’s all right in their pocket.
Social media can lead people to having unrealistic body images as well as standards. When it comes to young girls and boys, they are in a stage of their life where they feel a lot of pressure and are very easily influenced. When scrolling through Instagram, not only will the user stumble upon pictures of their friends, family, people they used to go to school with, but they will also see pictures of Instagram models in bikinis and random fitness pages. These users don’t even have to be following these people to see these things because many times it just appears on the popular page. Young girls see these Instagram models and start to wonder why they don’t look like that. This leads to a lot of photo-editing and to even more extremes such as eating disorders or plastic surgery which is at the highest it’s ever been. When boys see these Instagram models they don’t get a genuine sense of real women and their bodies. It is fake and they start to get confused and fall for it which leads to them comparing the girls in their own life and placing these girls up against these high standards which can really hurt relationships.
Body image plays such an important role in young adult life. “Teenage girls are also using image-based social media platforms more frequently than their male counterparts; 61% of girls use Instagram versus 44% of boys. This increase in usage of social media, especially Facebook and Instagram, may negatively affect adolescent girls and young women in regard to their self-confidence and body satisfaction” (The Inquisitive Mind). These Instagram models and fitness women not only act like their photoshopped bodies are the normal body type but they also partake in advertising products that are a scam. Products such as the Weight Trainer or Fit Tummy Tea that are supposed to help you lose weight fast are just lies being told to make more money. Social media should help lift the confidence of men and women and show them that their physical appearance is unique and beautiful and no amount of likes will change that.
People see social media as a platform to post what they believe in whether it deals with politics, religion, or just their views on life in general which people will either agree or disagree with which can lead to feuds between friends and family. Heated debates tend to take place when people’s ideas clash which can sometimes result in an unfollow and maybe even result in communication in real life to be cut off for a while. Social media can really show a different and truer side of someone. These platforms have become places where you have to constantly watch what you say because things are taken more seriously now than ever before. Everything must be politically correct or people will get offended but this should be seen as a learning experience and help people to be more understanding. A neuroscientist known as M.J.
Crockett states that, “People may feel compelled to express outrage online because they receive positive feedback for doing so. In her work, she researches how people express moral outrage on social media and whether their empathy or compassion is different online than in person. A single like or comment may be meant to affirm opinions, but they can also snowball and affect your offline relationships” (Social Media Is Killing Your Friendships). It’s important to have an opinion and stay strong about it. Someone shouldn’t have to change their thought process just because others disagree with them. But, sometimes others want to show that person how they can maybe look at an issue from a different perspective and help them to be more open. In friendships and relationships with family, the members should be learning from each other in this way anyway.
The unfortunate thing is that people have so many online friends that are fake. A social media user could have hundreds or thousands of followers but only talk to around four of those people in their everyday life. It doesn’t make sense that people search for validation, argue with, bully, and compare themselves to absolute strangers who they don’t interact with on a daily basis. “When you sign up for Google+ and set up your Friends circle, the program specifies that you should include only ‘your real friends, the ones you feel comfortable sharing private details with.’ That one little phrase, Your real friends — so quaint, so charmingly mothering — perfectly encapsulates the anxieties that social media have produced: the fears that Facebook is interfering with our real friendships, distancing us from each other, making us lonelier; and that social networking might be spreading the very isolation it seemed designed to conquer” (Marche, 545). This is expressing how social networking is supposed to bring people together and make them feel united but sometimes it does the exact opposite. It can pull friendships further apart especially when those bonds are already weak from online disagreements.
Cyber-bullying is a major problem that takes place on different forms of social media which can lead to depression, anxiety, decreased academic achievement which all can further lead to suicide. It is frightening having children on social media since they are in such a gullible time of their life all while still trying to figure out who they are. Cyber-bullying can happen to anyone but it is the LGBT community that holds the most victims. The most common type of bullying is name-calling along with nasty rumors, and physical threats. The Pew Research Center concluded that, “59% of U.S. teens have been bullied or harassed online, and a similar share says it’s a major problem for people their age. At the same time, teens mostly think teachers, social media companies and politicians are failing at addressing this issue.” (A Majority of Teens Have Experienced Some Sort of Bullying, Monica Anderson).
This shows that more than half of the teenage population in the U.S. has been bullied in their lifetime which is very saddening and on top of that they feel like they aren’t supported or protected. Jules Evans states, “…if you place too much value on your reputation or image, you enslave yourself to the fickle opinion of the public. You raise the public above you, turn it into a god, then cower before it and beg for its approval. You become dispossessed, your self-esteem soaring or crashing depending on how the public views you. This is a recipe for emotional sickness” (530). This explains that when you care too much about what people think, especially on social media, you give other people the power to judge you and let you feel a certain way so when they don’t like you, it can cause real problems.
The risk of suicide can be increased further when these kids don’t have a strong support system that includes friends, family, and their schools that let them know everything is okay and nothing will hurt them. Along with the name-calling and threats, kids are also put in uncomfortable positions when there is inappropriateness from photographs and videos that are sent to them without their approval. “One-quarter of teens say they have been sent explicit images they didn’t ask for, while 7% say someone has shared explicit images of them without their consent. These experiences are particularly concerning to parents. Fully 57% of parents of teens say they worry about their teen receiving or sending explicit images, including about one-quarter who say this worries them a lot, according to a separate Center survey of parents” (Pew Research Center). No matter what form, cyber-bullying is wrong on all levels and it puts the victims’ lives in danger. No one wants to go through life feeling like they aren’t accepted, their self esteem is constantly being stepped on, and there’s no way out.
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The Negative Effects of Social Media On Mental Health. (2021, Oct 20). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/the-negative-effects-of-social-media-on-mental-health/
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