In an increasingly technologically advanced age, people have become accustomed to using social media to connect with one another and provide people with information. Social media has provided many helpful resources for young adults to learn more about mental health.
I mean, that’s why you’re on this blog right now, am I right?
Don’t get me wrong—social media is a valuable tool for people to create social networks and promote mental health awareness organizations, not just across the states but the whole world. While social media has many positive influences in the world of mental health it has also created a negative impact on the mental health of young adults across America.
What’s more? There aren’t too many studies available to suggest the exact impact social media has on a person’s mental health.
I’ve decided to investigate this topic to provide an answer to the question;
Is social media harmful or helpful to the mental health of young adults?
In an attempt to answer this question, I am writing a two-part blog post about the positive and negative effects social media has on the mental health of young adults.
In this post I will discuss the negatives; the idea that social media may, in fact, be harmful to the mental health of many young adults.
This perspective of the argument is one that people are more or less familiar with.
It’s easy for older generations of American to write off social media as a toxic environment, that is harmful to the young adults of the modern world. Why? It is often because many do not understand how to use social media or what it’s purpose is.
I think, it’s important to go into this argument with a relatively objective opinion and let the evidence of the situation speak for itself.
As a millennial, for most of my childhood I’ve been exposed to social media. Facebook started circulating around 2010 – when I was a freshman in high school. Quickly, people became enamored with the idea of sharing their identity and life online.
After some research I found that the cultural shift my generation experienced came with many negative side-effects.
I was able to determine several ways social media negatively influences a young adult’s mental health;
1. Social media usage has proven an increase in mental health issues in young adults
–A research article by Katie Hurley of psycom.net suggests that social media influences anxiety, depression, and eating disorders in young adults. Hurley suggests that the people who spend more time on social media are 2.2 times more at risk of reporting eating and body image concerns and those who spend the most time on social media are 2.6 times at risk.
-Another study in the same article reported by the University of Pittsburg’s School of Medicine suggests that the more time young adults spend on social media, the more likely they are experience sleeping problems and symptoms of depression. Social media, as the article states, has also been proven to foster cyberbullying which often encourages symptoms of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts in young adults.
–The research article Are Instagram and Other Social Media Bad for Your Teen’s Mental Health? by the staff of Abington Jefferson Health suggests similar points referencing social media to mental health problems. This research article suggests the similar theory that social media fosters a negative body image and poor sleep habit in young adults. Stefanie Lopacinski, a behavioral health consultant at Abington-Jefferson supports this concept in claiming that “‘…the more social media young adults consume, the more likely they are to report depression or anxiety…’”
2. Social media forces young adults to making toxic comparisons online
-Abington Jefferson Health’s research article explores the theory that toxic comparison is a result of social media usage. Lopacinski offers the observation that “‘Physical comparison is a big issue with social media…we take everything on social media at face value. However, selfies manipulated with filters and editing programs are the norm now.’”
–A research article by psychologist and writer Jane Adams of the New York Times reasons that social media fosters toxic comparison in college students via unhealthy levels of perfectionism. Adams suggests that social media creates a self-prescribed perfectionism in young adults by allowing them to make comparisons between themselves and others in their online social networks. As Adams puts it these comparisons put pressure on young adults to create unrealistically high expectations for themselves.
-Adams offers the advice of Thomas Curran, author and lecturer at the Center for Motivation Health Behavior Change at University of Bath who suggest that, “‘Millennials feel pressure to perfect themselves partly out of social media to use that leads them to compare themselves to others…(they have) increasingly unrealistic educational professional expectations for themselves.’” The research article ultimately indicates that perfectionism has increased by 33 percent since 1989 with the rise of social media platforms and the internet.
3. Social media overshadows face to face interaction
-The research article by Katie Hurley discusses the idea that social media encourages less face to face interaction. In doing so, social media makes it more difficult for young adults to develop social skills like empathy and compassion that people can only receive from face to face interaction.
Just like many young adults today I’ve had difficulties with social media impacting my mental health. Recently, I have felt incredibly stressed and overwhelmed when I go on Facebook. I have quite a few friends who are also nearing the end of their senior year in college and many of them have jobs already lined up for when they graduate. I am so excited to hear about the good news, but it becomes more difficult to go on Facebook and see people posting celebratory job-offer announcements because I often compare myself to their successes.
I will say that comparing myself to my friends online has given me a clear perspective on the ways that stress and pressure damages your mental health. Knowing what I do now, I can say first-hand just how much pressure social media puts on college students and high school kids alike. I am so grateful that I was able to explore this topic to the extent that I have because I now realize the importance of being considerate of what I post and the potential it has to influence other people my age.
There is an overwhelming amount of negative evidence as a result of social media. It’s important for young adults to be mindful of how social media is negatively impacting their mental health so they can make an effort to balance their social media usage. I know, from personal experience that this is a difficult task, but I hope these proven side effects help you to take a step back from social media and consider the ways it might be harmful to your mental health.
In the next installment of this post I will explore some of the positive influences social media has on a young adult’s mental health.
Can you think of some examples how social media has impacted your life? Good? Bad? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to share this article to spread the word.
As always, remember to make your mind a priority and take care –