Social media has become a staple in modern society, with millions of people using platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to connect with friends, share content, and stay informed. While social media and ease of access via phones can be a great source of support and connection, it can also negatively impact mental health. In this blog post, we’ll explore common forms of social media, how they’re popular with younger generations, and the risks they can pose to mental health.
Common Forms of Social Media:
Many different social media platforms are available today, each with unique features and user bases. Some of the most popular include:
Facebook: One of the earliest and most well-known social media platforms, Facebook allows users to create a personal profile, connect with friends, and share updates, photos, and videos.
Instagram: A photo and video-sharing platform, Instagram is known for its focus on visual content and its use of hashtags to connect users with similar interests.
Twitter: A microblogging platform that allows users to share short messages, or “tweets,” with their followers.
TikTok: A video-sharing platform popular with younger generations, TikTok allows users to create and share short videos set to music or other audio.
Social Media and Younger Generations:
Social media is particularly popular with younger generations, with studies showing that teenagers and young adults are more likely to actively use social media than older age groups. According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of teens aged 13 to 17 use the internet, and 81% use social media.  This high usage level can have positive and negative impacts on mental health.
Time Spent on Social Media:
Many people spend a large portion of their time on social media, with some estimates suggesting that the average person spends around two hours daily on these platforms. This usage level can be a source of enjoyment and connection for some, but for others, it can become a source of stress and anxiety. It’s essential to be mindful of the amount of time we spend on social media and to ensure it’s not taking away from other important activities like work, school, relationships, or face-to-face interactions with friends and family. It’s essential to be aware of the vast impacts that social media can have on our mental health and to take breaks from it when needed.
False or Dangerous Information:
Social media can be a source of false or dangerous information, with misinformation spreading quickly through networks of friends and followers. This can lead to people believing in conspiracy theories or misinformation about essential topics like health, politics, and science. It’s important to be critical of the information we encounter on social media and to verify it from reliable sources before sharing it with others.
Misinformation can have serious consequences, from undermining public trust in institutions to spreading harmful beliefs or practices. By being cautious and seeking out accurate information, we can protect ourselves and others from the negative impacts of false or dangerous information on social media.
Body Image and Eating Disorders:
Another impact social media has is that it also contributes to body image issues and eating disorders. The constant stream of images and messages about appearance and beauty can pressure some users to conform to specific beauty standards. This can lead to negative feelings about one’s appearance and potentially harmful behaviours like disordered eating or unhealthy weight loss efforts.
Social media can also be a source of negative emotions and stress, with studies linking heavy social media usage to increased rates of depression and anxiety. Sadly, this can be especially true for those who compare themselves to others on social media and feel that they don’t measure up.
Cyberbullying, or using technology to harass or bully others, is a growing concern in today’s digital age. With social media providing an accessible platform for bullies to reach their targets, cyberbullying can take many forms, including posting harmful or embarrassing content about someone online, sending threatening messages or emails, or excluding someone from social media groups or events. This type of bullying can be particularly damaging because it can happen anytime and anywhere, making it harder for the victim to escape or find support.
Cyberbullying can lead to feelings of sadness, anger, and isolation for those who are targeted, and in severe cases, this can even lead to self-harm or suicide. It’s essential for individuals, schools, and communities to take a stand against cyberbullying and provide support and resources for those affected.
Lack of Motivation and Socialization:
Studies have shown that social media can lead to a lack of motivation and socialization, as people may become more reliant on virtual connections and less inclined to engage in face-to-face interactions. This can ultimately lead to feelings of loneliness and a deep sense of disconnection from the outside world.
It’s important to remember to balance time spent on social media with real-life socialization and activities that give us a sense of purpose and fulfilment. It’s also important to be extremely mindful of the content we consume on social media and to seek out positive, uplifting messages rather than ones that may bring us down or make us feel inadequate. By taking steps to protect our mental health on social media, we can ensure that it remains a positive and healthy part of our lives.
At the end of the day, social media has become an integral part of modern society, with millions of people using platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to connect with friends, share content, and stay informed. While social media can be a great source of support and connection, it’s essential to be aware of the potential risks it can pose to mental health. It can be a source of false or dangerous information, contribute to body image issues and eating disorders, lead to depression and anxiety and be a platform for cyberbullying. By being proactive and taking steps to protect our mental health on social media, we can ensure that it remains a positive and healthy part of our lives. Also, visit more
Sources: Madden, M. et al. (2019) Part 1: Teens and social media use, Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Pew Research Center. Available at: https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2013/05/21/part-1-teens-and-social-media-use/ (Accessed: December 19, 2022).