How Social Media Affects Mental Health Essay- Do The Cons Outweigh The Pros?
Most of us have a recollection of life before social media. In 2017, the smartphone turned ten years old, and as of June 2022, nearly 60% of the world's population uses social media. So, does social media positively or negatively impact mental health?
How does social media affect mental health? One good thing about social media is that it makes it easy for us to talk to each other. On the other hand, mental health problems like depression have been linked to the use of social media.
But how? There have been constant debates about the pros and cons of social media. This essay aims to examine both sides of the coin and come up with a verdict about this debate.
How Social Media Affects Mental Health?
Social media has existed for a while, so we can only look at its short-term consequences on mental health. With every like, comment, or share, your brain releases dopamine. An increase in dopamine makes us feel better, which results in individuals getting glued to their screens.
At any time of the day, we have instantaneous access to other individuals. Cell phones and computers have become nearly indispensable in modern life. According to a recent study, approximately 60% of the world’s population uses social media. This is about 4.7 billion social media users globally.
72% of Americans spend an average of two hours updating their social platforms daily. Be it Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tiktok, or Youtube.
Statistics show that about 40% of social media users use Facebook for news updates, 30% rely on Youtube, and 22% depend on Whatsapp. A study shows that around half a million tweets and Snapchat photographs are sent per minute.
This is one of the main reasons why adolescents and young people spend so much time on social media. 95% of adolescents in America have access to a smartphone, and out of the 95%, 45% use social media almost daily.
Most people often lose track of time scrolling through social media. The more your online participation, the more notifications you will receive throughout the day. This not only creates a drift from reality, but you also become less productive.
A research done on university students who limited their time online, showed positive effects on their daily lives. In addition, depending on the number of hours you spend online and how you spend them, social media can become unhealthy.
That is why people who spend more time on social media have a higher risk of developing mental issues. Numerous people even sacrifice their sleep just to browse through their feeds!
So, with social media playing such an essential role in our lives, are we risking our mental health? Is social media making us happier?
Do The Cons Outweigh The Pros?
The development of social media has altered our methods of communication. However, social media has been linked to mental issues such as anxiety and depression. Let’s look at other cons of social media on mental health.
Social media addiction
Human beings are genetically wired to interact with others. Human interaction has been seen to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and increase self-esteem.
A lack of social affiliations can affect your mental and emotional health. So, with the new dawn of social media, phones are slowly replacing physical interaction.
However, physical and social media interactions are not the same and have different effects. People now use social media to alleviate loneliness or worry as well.
The majority of social media users are addicted and spend the majority of their time online, leaving them with little time for other things that require their attention.
What causes social media addiction?
Addiction to social media is the same as being addicted to drugs. Thus, these are the common scenarios people get gradually addicted to social media.
- Constant use of social media leads to increased dopamine release in the brain. As mentioned above, every like or comment you get serves as a reward, and the brain, in turn, produces dopamine.
- With time, you will constantly check your social media just to get that rush or instant gratification. This is the same as taking a drug to get a specific response from your body. A dopamine high is addictive and results in mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
- The more time you spend online, the more antisocial you become. Eventually, antisocial behaviors will culminate into depression and other mental issues. It also becomes easy to compare one's life to others, raising FOMO (fear of missing out).
- The fear of missing out is the feeling that others have more enjoyable experiences than oneself. It can be challenging to see posts of your friends enjoying themselves while you can not attend due to inevitable circumstances. Feeling alienated can intensify anxiety and depression.
So, in addition to contributing to feelings of loneliness and depression, antisocial behaviors can exacerbate mental health disorders.
Depression is one of the most prevalent diseases caused by social media. The set in of depression begins when an individual spends all their time online and cuts off any physical interaction. The more time they spend online, the less time they have to spend with family and friends.
So, the individual’s social circle shrinks means leading him to feel isolated, thus, depression. And depressed person is more likely to turn their attention to social media, where they interact with others.
As social media interactions cannot replace real-life relationships, depression worsens. Also, comparing your life to another person on social media, also known as dysphoria, can cause depression as well.
Even though many of us know that what we see on the internet is not always accurate, many people still compare their lives to others which leads to feeling inadequate and isolated.
Consequently, social media has led to cyberbullying. People can hide behind their screens as they attack others with abusive words. Cyberbullying not only destroys an individual's self-esteem but can also lead to depression and the feeling that they are not good enough.
Similarly, some social media users spend too much time on social media at night. That exacerbates feelings of depression and anxiety due to inadequate sleep by preventing sleep.
Anxiety arises when an individual spends so much time online that they can no longer fathom interacting physically with another person. Prominent signs of anxiety include;
- Avoiding physical contact with people
- Anticipating the worst at all times
- Fear of being judged by other people
Accordingly, an anxious person prefers interacting with others on social media, where physical contact is impossible. That lengthens the individual’s online time, worsens anxiety, and could lead to other mental issues. In addition to anxiety, social media can instill worrying in an individual.
That is because if your feed displays negative news, you constantly worry that something might go wrong. Negative emotions are unhealthy and can lead to panic attacks, anxiety, and depression.
There is also another form of social media anxiety where an individual feels the need to constantly check their social media.
Lack of self-esteem
Issues like cyberbullying and dysphoria can lead to low self-esteem. Cyberbullying makes an individual feel not good enough and could even result in suicidal or self-injury thoughts.
Also, social media may display a lot of negative information that one way or another, promotes self-harm. So, people who frequently use social media are at a higher risk for self-harm and suicide ideation.
Dysphoria makes the individual feel inadequate. Social media sets a certain standard of beauty and happiness. When individuals compare these standards to their own lives, they become sad and feel imperfect. Dysphoria is the leading cause of mental health issues.
For example, a person may begin to view their own body differently after seeing an influencer with a different body type on Instagram or Snapchat. Then they feel the need to conform to the norms set by certain social media celebrities.
This may result in harmful behavior, such as teens who starve themselves to achieve a specific body size or shape. Likewise, if an individual does not get likes on their pictures or other content, they may feel inadequate, which lowers their self-esteem.
Positive Effects Of Social Media On Mental Health
Social media does not always have adverse effects on mental health. Here are the pros of social media that affect mental health positively.
Social media has made the world a smaller world. Interaction among people has become instantaneous and easy because of social media. With only a click of a button, you can reach your family or friends anywhere in the world.
This has reduced homesickness and loneliness, especially for people far from their families. As much as social media has been accused of replacing real-life relationships, some people benefit from it.
For example, when you make new friends online and find a group of like-minded people with whom you can relate to. Thus, social networking allows you to learn about different backgrounds and cultures of people all over the world.
Through social media, people have been able to learn about emerging issues. An increasing number of people use social media to promote change and make a positive global impact. Also, social media helps people with anxiety find help without face-to-face conversation.
Sometimes, it is natural to feel uncomfortable discussing health problems with family and friends. There are many mental health resources for countries around the world. They offer a secure environment where anyone may ask questions throughout their online platform.
Consequently, social media enables individuals to seek emotional support from others who have experienced similar situations. It also has access to many health resources that promote help-seeking behavior.
For those living in rural or marginalized areas, social media provides a low-cost and easily accessible option for seeking assistance.
Promotes creativity and self-expression
Studies show that when some people vent their problems on social media, they feel better. Why? Because they know they are not alone and genuine people are willing to help them. Creatives have also found a place to put their work where a large audience can view it.
That way, people share ideas on how to do certain things and improve things. This not only makes people productive, but it also alleviates any chances of loneliness and isolation. Also, participating in online forums on social media provides access to a vast network of information.
You can learn more about things through social groups and forums. In addition, you can also ask questions about your issue and seek advice from others with more expertise.
So, what is the verdict? Do social media cons outweigh the pros? No, they do not. However, there is a very thin line between the pros and cons of social media. The solution is to limit your time on social media; create a balance between social media and reality.
If you feel you are spending too much time on social media, reevaluate your habits and make time for other things. Take a social media detox period. If you struggle with depression, anxiety or loneliness, do not hesitate to seek help.