Social Media & Mental Health
As social media becomes an integral part of many people’s lives, it is important to consider how constant social media use may negatively impact mental health. According to a Baylor University study on cellphone activity published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, college students spend an average of 8-10 hours a day on their cellphones, and excessive use poses the risk of decreased academic performance. Of the 164 college students polled in the survey, over 85 percent of them claimed to spend large amounts of time on social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Some ways social media can negatively affect mental health include insecurity, distraction, addiction, social anxiety and cyber bullying.
Social media feeds are filled with other people’s job promotions, engagement announcements, wedding pictures, baby arrivals, etc. When others choose to share only the positive aspects and most flattering photos of their lives on social media, it creates an unrealistic basis for self-comparison, causing feelings of insecurity. Keep in mind that most people only post what they want other people to see, not the realities.
Social media can also be extremely distracting. It is common for many people to log on to social media, planning to spend five minutes checking email, then realize they have spent over two hours going through their news feed. To prevent this from happening, set a timer when logging on to social media. It may be best to avoid social media altogether during finals weeks and midterms to avoid being distracted and unproductive.
For some people, social media serves as an alternate reality to which they go to escape from real life. The feeling of escape can become addicting. Recent studies have found that the positive reinforcement of this escape is what can lead to addiction.
Social media is used to connect to others but does not have the same properties as real human interaction, a necessary human need. For those already prone to social anxiety, a dependence on social media and the comfort of communicating behind a computer screen can make them even more anxious when confronted with face-to-face interaction, making real human interaction increasingly scary.
In recent years, cyber bullying has become a hot topic in the news for good reason. Adolescence is difficult enough without the critical nature of social media. Unfortunately, teens aren’t the only ones capable of cyber bullying. Social media allows bullies to hide behind their computers, detached from the impact their words have on their victims. Thus, social media creates a disconnection between the person’s actions and the consequences.