Social media is a phrase that gets used a lot and refers to interacting with other people, sharing and receiving information with them, all while using the internet to communicate. Adults and children alike use social media on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. They check Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat many times each day to see the latest news or photos. Although social media usage has become routine for many, is it affecting mental health in a negative way? According to some researchers, the answer is yes.
Based on a study from the American Journal of Epidemiology, “Overall, our results showed that, while real-world social networks were positively associated with overall well-being, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being. These results were particularly strong for mental health; most measures of Facebook use in one year predicted a decrease in mental health in a later year.” Some smaller studies suggested that the more time spent on Facebook allowed participants a greater opportunity to compare themselves to others which could be associated with an increase in daily depressive symptoms as well.
For teens and young people ages 14 – 24, social media has become as addictive as cigarettes and alcohol. Most of them have never known a world without instant access to the internet and social media. Although many researchers realize there is much to be learned about the effect of social media on mental health, they also realize the importance of exploring that research.
A study in the UK from the Royal Society for Public Health called #StatusOfMind looked at various sites and the effects on young people’s mental health. The study surveyed 1,500 young people ages 14 – 24 and the findings showed that Instagram and Snapchat were the most harmful to mental health. Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, stated that both Instagram and Snapchat, “are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.” In addition, depression, loneliness, bullying, and body image were all impacted by these social media platforms.
There are some encouraging ways that can try to reduce the negative effect from social media. Those include a “heavy usage warning” or alert that people would receive if they exceeded a certain level in hopes of deterring further use. Some felt that highlighting photos that had been digitally manipulated would allow people to realize that some individuals add filters or edit photos to make themselves look perfect. Others thought that the various sites should identify users that might be dealing with mental health issues and discretely send ways to get them support.
Social media certainly impacts many people on a daily basis. Instead of letting it consume your day and negatively affect your mental health, try to disconnect from time to time for a healthier lifestyle. Take a short walk and appreciate nature, practice a breathing exercise, read a book, or write in a journal. And most importantly, make time to see and visit with people in person.
Lori Atkinson, Operations Assistant for The Kim Foundation
Lori Atkinson joined The Kim Foundation in May 2015 as an Operations Assistant. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from UNL in Middle Level Education. She was an 8th grade English teacher in the Omaha Public Schools for ten years and started a small non-profit in her husband’s memory in 2010. Lori assists with many of the day-to-day tasks for The Kim Foundation which includes scheduling presentations in the community, coordinating booths at conferences, attending mental health trainings, researching mental illness/suicide, and working community events. Lori is the proud mom of three children and is actively involved in her church.