Social media has blown up over the past 10 years, especially with the invention of Facebook back in 2004. It’s not just Facebook that’s grown in popularly; Instagram and Snapchat have also jumped on the bandwagon.
With all the popularity of social networking, it begs the question:
Is social media fucking us up?
It’s making us sad and anxious
The first mental health issue that becomes apparent with increased social media use is depression/anxiety. Because social media is still relatively new, it’s hard to determine whether or not social media usage causes depression and/or anxiety or if people with depression/anxiety use social media more often than those who are not depressed/anxious (Pantic).
Additionally, it’s been suggested that those who use social media the most inevitably develop increased social isolation (cue 40-year old playing Words with Friends on their iPhone alone in the dark). This can be caused due to increasing time on social media and therefore, decreasing in-person connections (Primack et. al).
Finally, increase usage of social media leads to decreased interpersonal communication. Interactions online are superficial compared to interactions in person (Pantic). I mean, how easy is it today to “like” someone’s photo or give it a double-tap and move on instead of engaging in dialogue?
It’s making us insecure…again
Like you weren’t insecure enough when social media first came out (speaking to the 20-something year old’s when I was a budding teenager and wouldn’t leave the house without a pound of eyeliner circled around my blue eyes). Another mental health issue that’s pervasive among social media users is self-esteem. It’s been said that social networking sites can promote narcissism when the platform is used for self-representation.
When users can decide what they want to publicize, which can either result in higher self-esteem as they pick the parts they admire about themselves or adversely, when seeing others’ pre-selected photos, events, and information, this could impact the viewers’ idea of themselves and threaten their self-esteem (Pantic).
We all know you didn’t wake up looking like that.
The “Fear of Missing Out” is a third mental health issue that’s associated with increased social media use and decreased self-esteem. Social media can cause users to feel like they are being excluded from events, i.e. “FOMO.”
What isn’t taken into account by the user is that the posted content is curated specifically by the owner and therefore, sends a particular message the owner wants to portray. This, in effect, distorts reality because only part of the story is portrayed. Essentially, users can choose what to make public and what to hide.
For receivers of this information, it falsely appears that the owner leads a “perfect, happier life” and can result in self-esteem issues, FOMO, and anxiety/depression (Primack et. al).
Finally, there is the concern of social networking addiction with excessive social media use. Certain populations can become addicted to social networks with symptoms such as, “salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, relapse, and conflict with regards to behavioral addiction” (Kuss and Griffiths).
Kuss and Griffiths define salience as social media being the most important thing the user does during the day.
Mood modification is considered activities on social media platforms conducted to alter moods like increasing pleasure or numbing pain.
Tolerance is signified as more time and activity becomes required to induce the same feeling(s) as before.
Withdrawal is designated as addicted individuals may experience negative psychological or physiological symptoms when not using social media.
Relapse is when an individual drops social media and eventually re-uses it again.
Finally, social media could lead to relationship problems as well as issues at work and at home, which corresponds with behavior addiction (Kuss and Griffiths).
That’s a ton of shit that’s happening to people all because of social media. Not to mention, all the other things that haven’t been identified yet as a problem. The invention of social media is still relatively new and studies are continuously conducted to determine the psychological impacts of its use, especially at an excessive rate.
Maybe we can all start putting our phones away and have IRL FaceTime with the people who are still in our physical lives.
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Kuss, Daria J., and Mark D. Griffiths. “Social Networking Sites and Addiction: Ten Lessons Learned.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, MDPI, 14 Mar. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5369147/.
Pantic, Igor. “Online Social Networking and Mental Health.” The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking1, 1 Oct. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4183915/.
Primack, Brian, et al. “Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S.” American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 6 Mar. 2017, www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(17)30016-8/fulltext#s0030.