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Social Media Effects On Mental Health

Social Media Effects Mental Health

Can you remember a time without social media or the internet? It has become such an integrated part of society that we don’t even think about it anymore. According to Facebook was launched in 2004 and Twitter in 2006. In a 15 year time span social media and the advent of smartphones has changed our lives dramatically. If you look around when you’re at a doctor’s appointment, everyone in the waiting room has their phone out. If you take the subway for your morning commute, you’ll see laptops, tablets, and devices galore. The internet allows us to access any information we could ever want or need. Most schools use technology and the internet in their curriculum now, too.

For all of its charms and conveniences, social media should be a dream come true. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for everyone. A 2017 study found that people who frequently used social media were far more likely to feel isolated or depressed than those who only used it occasionally. For some, social media is a great way to catch up with family and friends. For others, social media is harmful to their mental health. Additionally, they may not be aware of why it’s hurting them.

In Ohio, over 43% of our residents are struggling with anxiety or depression. At Sun Behavioral Health Columbus, we want to make sure our community is aware of the problems social media can cause because we want to see a decrease in those numbers.

How Social Media Affects Teen Mental Health

According to the Pew Research Center, 69% of adults and over 86% of teens use social media. Teens don’t just use social media more often than adults – they also spend more time on social media. This means that teens are more prone to experience the negative health effects associated with social media. Moreover, teens see social media as a way to connect with their peers or receive validation. Adults experience some of this, too, but not to the same extent.

Teens don’t have much life experience. As they start to become individuals and separate from their parents, they look outward for connection and reassurance. Posting a photo or a thought on social media is risky. If they don’t get enough “likes” or enough attention on their posts, they may feel a lack of validation. This might lead to teens thinking their life or their thoughts don’t matter to those around them. This can greatly affect their self-esteem.

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying, which also takes place on social media platforms, can change the way a teenager sees themselves and the world around them. Cyberbullying can be anything from abusive name-calling to confidential photos being released and more. Because cyberbullying doesn’t always happen on school property, teachers or staff can’t always modify this behavior. Some schools have gotten better as far as cyberbullying rules; teachers and staff can intervene if they see cyberbullying. But in many districts, there is still no law on bullying that happens after school hours – so cyberbullying can get out of hand.

It isn’t always social media itself that causes the problem when it comes to teens. Their bodies, minds, and perceptions are rapidly changing. This can cause them to act out or become reckless, and social media can be another outlet for these impulsive behaviors. There are a variety of explanations for why teens are more likely to display erratic or impulsive behavior, but the main factor is the underdevelopment of the prefrontal cortex. In other words: they’re not thinking about the long-term consequences of what they post because their brain doesn’t work that way yet.

This is often why cyberbullying happens. It’s difficult for them to understand the permanence of things posted online or the way their actions are affecting others. A teenage brain is wired for “the here and now”, and that’s how they approach their social media activity.

A 2020 study published in the Journal of the Ohio Council of Professors of Educational Administration (OCPEA) recently pointed out that 36.5% of students, ages 12-17, reported that they were cyberbullied at some point in their life. Cyberbullying is not a rare occurrence in Ohio – it’s a growing issue that causes massive teen stress. Some of the things that have been linked to cyberbullying in teens include:

  • Self-mutilation or self-harm
  • Suicide attempts
  • Suicide
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Teen Anxiety
  • Poor sleep quality
  • And more

If and when a teen starts to experience mental anguish, it might be time to seek adolescent mental health treatment before it goes any further.

How Social Media Affects Adult Mental Health

Social media’s effects on adult mental health are similar to teens’, but the causes are a little different. There are three main ways social media impacts adult mental health:

  • Fear of missing out (FOMO). As adults age, they become more self-aware about who they are, what they want, and where their place is in society. It can be psychologically damaging to see friends or family members posting about places you’ve never been or things you’ve never done – especially when it comes to societal norms like having children, getting married, or taking lavish vacations. FOMO can cause feelings of self-doubt, self-loathing, or discontentment. It may cause an adult to feel like they’ve fallen behind or they’re missing out on the joys in life that their friends are experiencing. For some, FOMO will also promote high social networking site usage, which can also lead to a sedentary lifestyle influencing the obesity epidemic.
  • Social media can become addictive, which can impact productivity, motivation, and more. According to Harvard researcher Trevor Haynes, social media notifications cause your brain to send dopamine (the “feel-good” chemical) along your reward pathways. Unfortunately, when this happens, the brain is being rewired or “trained” to return to social media use throughout the day. This same “instant gratification” rewards system can be found in other things like food, alcohol, gambling, drugs, and more.
  • The more social media is used, the more someone wants to use it. This can make adults feel like they’re shackled to their smartphones or devices, causing them to lose focus or feel frazzled without immediate access to their social networking sites. Being unable to walk away from social media to focus on work or other activities can cause harm to someone’s mental health.
  • Social media can become a barrier to real-life relationships and experiences. Social media addiction can contribute to someone isolating themselves from family and friends. A 2017 study found that heavy social media users were 3x more likely to experience feelings of isolation and loneliness. This is especially true for adults because they’re not inundated with social activity each day the way children and teens are. Feelings of loneliness or isolation in adults can lead to self-harming behaviors, depression, anxiety, and more.

For all of its upsides, the internet can be mentally taxing for adults and adolescents. Modifying social media usage can be the answer for many who are experiencing its negative effects, but that isn’t always easy to do. Simple changes, like turning your phone off an hour before bed, can make a difference.

Mental Health Services

If you or someone you love is struggling with anxiety, depression, or thoughts of self-harm, never hesitate to seek mental health treatment. At Sun Behavioral Health Columbus, we envision a healthy community that can lean on each other in times of need. If you have any questions or if you’d like to discuss our treatment options, please call us at 614-706-2786 today!


FAQs About Social Media Effects On Mental Health

What Is The Correlation Between Social Media And Mental Health?

Studies show that heavy social media users can experience things like anxiety, depression, thoughts of self-harm, and more. This doesn’t mean that everyone who uses social media is going to run into trouble with their mental health. Adults and teens battle with different side effects of social media usage. Teens may experience cyberbullying while adults may experience social media addiction or the fear of missing out (FOMO) and more.

How Many Hours Should One Be On Social Media Platforms A Day?

Studies show that limiting social media usage to less than 30 minutes per day can lead to a significant improvement in mental health and well-being.

Can You Become Addicted To Social Media Platforms?

Yes. When you receive a notification or a positive comment on a post (etc.) your brain releases dopamine. Social media will create new reward pathways in your brain. This can cause you to want to return to it throughout the day for more dopamine. You can reduce this risk by limiting your social media usage to less than 30 minutes per day.

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