Mental Health & Social Media
Posted 07 Sep at 5:32 pm in Productivity
- More than half of the world’s population is considered to be an “active” social media user. (Upwards of 4.5 billion users)
- There was a stable suicide rate among 10 to 24 year olds from 2000-2007, that jumped 51% between 2007-2017.
A Balancing Act
Such is life, the relationship between technology and mental health is a two way street. Undeniably, the invention, advancement, and mass adoption of technology has served us equally as well as it has poorly. We are often greeted with apps that promote productivity, mental health awareness, dieting assistance, etc. There are apps for everybody, of any age, race, religion, etc.
Only a few short years after it’s release on the Apple Appstore the “preschool/toddler” section recorded the most downloads of the entire virtual storefront (source). So, what does this mean exactly? Well, it’s likely too early to see any verified evidence on what this may suggest. But, kids are not alone in this heavy usage of technology. The average adult will pick up their phone upwards of 150 times per day (though many studies suggest more or less than this, this was a middle-ground). This constant checking of the phone is a result of some level of instant gratification we receive from our phones. Whether it be a social media like, incoming text message, work e-mail, etc., there is behavioral link to this attraction similar to that of which gambling addicts feel when they gamble.
Though technology has proved to do some amazing things time and time again, anything in excess is bound to show some negative side effect. The increased consistent use of technology has lead to higher rates of addiction, and a positive link to narcissism. Source
Aside from smart phones and our pocket tech, other forms of technology are by-design, made to be more addicting. This has become such a real problem that WoW Anonymous, a sub-Reddit for those addicted to World of Warcraft, has amassed 1,500 thousand users in a few years. While this number may not sound all too large, that is a rather niche community to still be so active after 4+ years.
Social media has become a very tricky world to navigate for individuals young and old. As aforementioned, the preschool and toddler section of the Apple Appstore records the most downloads across the entire storefront. Technology very well may be shaping the way young children think of themselves.
In 2023, more than half of the world’s population (closer to 55%) are estimated to be “active users” on social media. Though the term “active” is somewhat loose, we’ll infer that means an individual who uses social media upwards of once a day. As social media becomes more of a normal facet in our lives (if it isn’t already), it is imperative that we consider and take note of the effects this may have on our mental health. Though social media can serve as a wonderful platform for a variety of things, it’s a sharp double-edged blade that must be treated as such. The convenience of communication can be followed with anxiety and a feeling of being less-than adequate. While it is a true shame, it is a serious reality.
Looking at a study from MIT, it has shown that college-wide access to Facebook led to a 7% increase of severe depression among all students within a sample pool (Source). Outside of depression and depressive disorders, anxiety and anxiety-related disorders rose by 20%.
Social media can lead to drastic comparison, which is what makes up the feelings of a large portion of respondents who reported a decline in mental health since their start with social media. The curation of a profile allows for individuals to showcase only the best, and often times edited, versions of themselves. A feeling of inadequacy is not unusual when scrolling through a feed, tuning in on YouTube, or flipping through the channels and passing by “reality” TV.
For many, the metric of likes has become more important than that of love and real human interaction. Offering a similar feeling to what one with a gambling addiction may experience, as aforementioned, it is no wonder that young adults are so intensely effected by these technologies.
Many adolescents experience what they would call “FOMO” or, the fear of missing out. Often caused by social media, namely Snapchat and Instagram, FOMO has a variety of negative effects such as correlated stress, anger, negative academic performance, and more. In short, it is the fear of missing out on an event or activity, that you may see your peers partaking in on social media. I.e. A college-aged kid may see his friends, or peers, at a concert. This could lead to thoughts of “Why was I not invited? Are they really my friends?”, etc. While some may consider this thought process to be extreme, it is very real for the individual living it.
In a vacuum, social media is a great thing that transcends locational bounds and allows for us to connect across the globe and maintain direct communication with one another. It lets us show off our dogs newest trick, our favorite band playing at the local venue, a new recipe we just perfected, our our grandkids. But, this isn’t a vacuum that we live in, we live in the real world. Social media, like all things, is great in moderation. At this point, everything seen on social media should be taken with a grain (or a whole shaker) of salt. Between the inherent power found in applications such as Photoshop, and the now constantly evolving AI tools at our disposal, it is easier than ever to fabricate social media posts.
With the pressure applied by social media, the numbers tied to us, possible negative comments, and the new “norms” set by others, it is no wonder there is a mental health crisis correlated to it.
On social media, what you see is not what you get – always remember that.