Why Heavy Social Media Use May Be Contributing to Mental Health Decline in Youth
Social media platforms have forever changed the face of how we communicate. Originally seen as a way for people to connect and share experiences, recent studies have come out that show how heavy use of social media is harmful to mental health. This is especially true for teens and young adults. Among the most-used platforms, Instagram and Snapchat are cited as the most harmful to mental wellness in teens. The study found that Facebook and Twitter were also harmful, however, Youtube actually had a positive influence on teens. A recent survey that comprised of around 15,000 14-24 year-olds found that heavy Instagram use heightens feelings of depression and inadequacy among this age group.
Why are Instagram and Snapchat the worst? Studies show that because these platforms are highly visual, teens are exposed to images that are highly edited but are not cited as such. This can negatively affect young people’s self-esteem and self-image. It can also lead to bullying, depression, feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
On their end, Instagram is working towards a more mental health positive platform.
The platform added a new feature that allows users to flag photos anonymously when they think a person needs help. Instagram then sends a message to that person that point them to resources or support services if they need. Instagram paired with organizations such as the National Eating Disorders Association and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in order to ensure that this feature was as effective as possible. The platform also created a campaign dubbed #HereForYou. The campaign highlights users who are who are raising “awareness about mental health and the importance of finding support”, Kevin Systrom, founder and CEO of Instagram, said recently in a blog post. The goal of #HereForYou is to make it easier for users to find resources for mental-health related issues on the platform.
What are ways to counteract the effects that social media has on teens?
One, it is important to know when to take breaks from social media use. The study mentions the effects of heavy use. Even if you are not on social media platforms all the time, a break now and then is a good idea. Take at least a day, although a week is really beneficial, to not check your profiles. If you are a parent, talk to your kids about reality versus what they see online. Engaging in these conversations might help teens understand that what they see online isn’t a reflection of reality.
Two, it is important to know that social media platforms are our own way to express ourselves. Some people prefer to layer filters on top of their photos while others prefer to have a more natural look. Everyone thinks differently, and we all need to be more accepting of our differences. Filters are a fun way to get creative with pictures that we post online, but we need to work on knowing the difference between filters and reality.
What are some ways that we as individuals can help reduce the effect that social media has on teens?
It all starts with us as individuals understanding that we are not all the same. Talking with teens about numerous different things, such as how their words on social media can make a difference in other peoples lives, or how that everything on the internet is not exactly what it may seem. It starts with one kind word to spread kindness to everyone.