Impact of Social Media on Mental Health – The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

A smartphone lying on a carton that reads ‘Handle with care’ while the phone’s screen has twitter’s symbol. Social Media Impact on Mental Health.

The rise of social media has revolutionized the way we interact with each other, share information, and consume media. With platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, we can easily connect with friends and family, discover new communities, and stay up to date on the latest news and trends.  

According to National Center for Health Research, almost 25% of adolescents believe that social media has a mostly negative effect. With 13% of them reporting depression and 32% reporting anxiety, mental illness. It is a concern for young adults as well, since 25% of 18-25 year olds report having some form of mental illness. As many as 72% of teens say that they have been cyberbullied at some point. These social media mental health statistics are quite alarming. However, the social media impact on mental health has been the subject of much debate and scrutiny in recent years. While social media can have many positive benefits, negative effects of social media on health and well-being cannot be denied. The internet is full of social media and mental health articles that explore the complex relationship between social media use and mental health outcomes.

Girl in white shirt, white nailpaint, holding a smartphone in hands.

How Does Social Media Affect Mental Health Positively

According to Pew Research Centre, by 2021, about 72% of adults in US used social media. Social media platforms provide a space to connect with others who share similar interests, beliefs, and experiences, which can help foster a sense of community and belonging. It can also help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, especially for those who live far from their loved ones and can be a valuable tool to connect with others and build relationships. 

Social media is a powerful tool for mental health advocacy and education. Many mental health organizations use social media to spread awareness, provide resources, and encouragement to seek help when needed. It also provides a platform to share personal stories and experiences with mental health, which can help reduce stigma and increase understanding. 

Negative Effects of Social Media on Health 

 The negative impacts of social media can be significant. Some of them include:

Presenting a perfect image  

The pressure to present a perfect image leads to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and depression. 

Idealized versions of people’s lives  

Often social media has idealized versions of people’s lives. This leads to negative self-image and feelings of low self-esteem 

Comparisons among others 

Social media creates a habit of comparing yourself to others. This comparison can be harmful to mental health. 

Cyberbullying, harassment, and hate speech 

Some negative outcomes from social media include cyberbullying, harassment and hate speech. This leads to increased stress, anxiety, and trauma to the person targeted. 

Spreading false rumors

False information or rumors can spread quickly on social media and can damage a person’s reputation and causes emotional distress 

Being tracked by unknown individuals 

Social media platforms collect user data that can be used by third parties to track individuals. This can lead to privacy violations, identity theft, and stalking. It can often result in criminal activities like kidnapping. 

Receiving physical threats 

Social media platforms can be used to make physical threats against individuals. This can include threats of violence, sexual assault, or other forms of harm. Physical threats can have a significant impact on mental health and can lead to feelings of fear and anxiety. 

Having explicit pictures shared online 

The sharing of explicit pictures without consent, also known as revenge porn, is a common issue on social media. This can cause severe emotional distress and can lead to humiliation, and even legal action. Victims of revenge porn often experience mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Addiction to social media  

It is a growing concern that social media is an addiction. People have become excessively and uncontrollably preoccupied with social media use, which can result in difficulty disconnecting from devices, leading to a constant need to check notifications and updates. People with social media addiction experience anxiety, irritability, and depression when they are unable to access social media. They often have poor sleeping patterns, reduced productivity, and social isolation.

A stressed woman, holding her hand with hand, sitting in front of laptop

How does social media cause depression? 

There are several ways that social media contributes to the development or worsening of depression. Even though social media is a platform for social connection, it can contribute to feelings of isolation. This is because social media interactions can be superficial, and people may feel like they are not truly connecting with others on a meaningful level.

It can be addictive, leading to excessive use and decreased productivity, which can contribute to depression. Since people often present an idealized version of themselves on social media, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy and inferiority in those of us who are comparing ourselves to these idealized images, resulting in depression.

Another factor is cyberbullying, which is more prevalent on social media than in other forms of communication. It leads to feelings of humiliation, shame, and depression to the one targeted. Research has shown a significant relationship between social media use and mental health among young adults.

A group of young people, standing together but all looking into their smartphones

Impact of Social Media on Mental Health of Students 

Social media is a useful tool for communication and connection for students. It has broken the barriers that existed in physically appearing in class to study something. Now, the teachers and students are connected on social media. The teachers are available to help whenever needed.

While it is a great source of information for students, social media has also become an addictive part of students’ lives. They are often exposed to highly curated images and posts of their peers on social media, which leads to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

Students who spend too much time on social media suffer from poor sleep, eye fatigue, negative body image, depression and anxiety.

Man holding a black tablet in hands, video calling. Social Media Impact on mental health.

Maintaining a Healthy Relationship with Social Media 

The first step is to be aware of the potential risks and benefits of these platforms. It’s important to be mindful of how the use of social media affects mental health and to take steps to mitigate any negative effects. Here is how it can be done: 

  • Limit your time on social media
  • Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself
  • Seek support from friends and family
  • Connect with others for a good purpose and build relationships online
  • Share your experiences and support others
  • Advocate for mental health and raise awareness
  • Access mental health resources and support, such as hotlines, therapy apps, and online counseling services

The social media impact on mental health is a complex and multifaceted issue. While it provides a platform for connection and social support, it also leads to negative mental health outcomes such as anxiety, depression, and social isolation. It is important to be mindful of its use and to seek support if there are any negative effects on mental health. By recognizing the potential benefits and drawbacks of social media use, we can work towards a more positive and supportive online community.

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