The Power of Social Media
Social media has radically changed the way we communicate and has many benefits. We have access to unlimited information, we can communicate almost immediately with people around the world, and we can share other information that matters to us.
Social media is also a powerful tool for motivating people to take action and make social change. It provides a platform for young people to be heard, allowing them to express themselves on issues that concern them. The online world has the potential to help young people explore new concepts, manage risks and build resilience.
However, as social media has evolved very rapidly and has a profound impact on social fiber and interpersonal relationships, it is important to explore the potential effects on young people’s emotional and mental health.
What does research on social media and mental health say?
In recent years, psychologists have begun to look at the effects of social media on mental well-being and much of this research reveals that: Heavy use of social media is associated with poorer mental health.
A recent University of Pittsburgh study of young adults suggested that heavy social media users were three times more likely to be depressed than casual users. A Canadian study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health that looked at data from more than 10,000 teenagers, found that young people who use social media for more than two hours a day were much more likely to rate their mental health as “fair” or “bad” compared to casual users.
An overview of the research usually points to the top 3 factors explaining why overuse of social media can have a negative impact on young people’s mental health:
Impact on sleep
Heavy use can have a negative impact on physical well-being, which can also affect mental health. This is especially relevant when it comes to disrupting sleep. Several studies have linked sleep difficulties to screen time.
Whether it’s blue light from screens affecting the quality and quantity of sleep or behavioral disorders that cause young people to wake up to check their phones, reduced sleep is a significant mental health issue. Sleep is essential for adolescent brain development, and lack of sleep is associated with lower mood and depression.
Use as a life comparison tool
While social media was initially set up as a means of connecting with others, it is now also used as a means of comparison. It has become a barometer of the extent to which we compare ourselves to others and it is a particular problem for young people who are socialized through the school system to “grade” themselves relative to their peers.
As a result, many longitudinal studies conducted in this area suggest that we are increasingly engaging in “passive use” of social media – this is where we look at other people’s photos and lives and compare them to our own, and it’s bad for our mental health.
The nature of social media is such that most people present the highlights of their lives more regularly than the boring things, so these highlights seem to be the norm.This is because we tend to post when we’re on a high note and surf other people’s pages when we’re downstairs, so the differential between our real lives and the idealized lives we see on screen is further amplified, making us feel like we can’t. measure and that we lack. This can impact mental well-being and feel inferior and inadequate.
Chase away sitting tastes to boost self-esteem
If I wanted to design a ‘thinking’ exercise for low self-esteem, I would ask someone to take dozens of photos, edit them, publish them for others to evaluate, and then if they don’t get enough validation through likes, comments or repetitions, have them start from scratch.This increased awareness and impression management inherent in social media engagement is the third area that affects mental health.
Talk to kids about the pros and cons of social media
So, while social media of course has many benefits, it’s important for parents to talk to their kids about the importance of using it in healthier ways. We need to talk about the impact of applying for approval in an online world that doesn’t really know them or comparing their lives to edited versions of the lives they see online.