Social Media & Mental Health

Social media started as a way to makes loved ones who live far away feel close and helps us reconnect with old friends. It helps us see the good things that happen in our world and helps us feel like we are not alone. However, we can all agree that just like there is an upside to social media there is also a downside. Yes, our phones keep us connected to the rest of the world but it could come at the price of our mental health.

Research shows that social media affects kids and teens even more in comparison to adults because their developing brains are so vulnerable. There are statistics that report almost 25% of teens viewing social media as having a negative effect.

In 2017 a study done of 8th to 12th graders found that high levels of depressive symptoms increased by 33% between 2010 and 2015 and that suicide rates for girls in this group increased by 65%. 

Child suicide rates increased by up to 150%, and self-harm by girls ages 10 to 14 nearly tripled. All of these patterns point to social media.

Excessive social media use can create a negative, self-perpetuating cycle:

  1. When you feel lonely, depressed, anxious, or stressed, you use social media more often—as a way to relieve boredom or feel connected to others.
  2. Using social media more often, though, increases FOMO (fear of missing out) and feelings of inadequacy, dissatisfaction, and isolation.
  3. In turn, these feelings negatively affect your mood and worsen symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.
  4. These worsening symptoms cause you to use social media even more, and so the downward spiral continues.

At this time of social distancing and isolation, social media can be an invaluable tool for keeping you in touch with friends, loved ones, and the wider world. But be mindful of how it makes you feel. If spending time on social media exacerbates your stress, anxiety, and uncertainty, take steps to limit your engagement. And always check reputable news sources before believing—or forwarding—any rumors about COVID-19 that may cause panic.

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