The technology landscape has rapidly evolved in recent years, with social media now playing a central role in the lives of youth. Social media has created both significant new challenges and exciting opportunities. Research is beginning to uncover how social media affects mental health. According to a 2020 poll, 79% of Internet-using adults have a Facebook account. Additionally, 76% of Facebook users report logging on once per day, with 55% logging on several times per day. Another study recently estimated we spend a combined 50 minutes on social media each day, which extrapolates to roughly five years per lifetime.

Social Media on Physical and Mental Health

Comparing Ourselves with Others is Unhealthy – Spending a lot of time looking at others’ “highlights” online naturally leads to thinking of ourselves as better or worse off, which links to jealousy and more severe depressive symptoms.

Sedentary Lifestyle – It shouldn’t come as a surprise that looking at your phone or sitting at your computer for long periods of time can lead to a more sedentary lifestyle, which can have negative effects on your overall physical health.

Triggers More Sadness – Facebook has been linked to less overall satisfaction with life, likely due to feelings of social isolation. Additionally, more time spent on sites like Facebook and Instagram has been shown to increase these feelings.

It Can Be Addictive – Research has shown users can suffer from addictive behavior using social media and show psychological symptoms of withdrawal when they’re unable to log on.

Cyber Bullying – Social media connects us all but it isn’t always a good thing. In one study, 52% of students reported being cyberbullied, with Facebook accounting for the bullying channel 84% of the time.

Social media isn’t always the cause of mental health issues. It can be an associated problem – such as lack of sleep – or further exasperate on-going issues.

One person, who asked to remain anonymous said that, following a panic attack in work, they were signed off with work-related stress.

They had been overworking, as a coping method to deal with PTSD, and when they were signed off work, decided to leave social media too.

Previously using Facebook and Instagram, this person, who lives and works between Newport and Cardiff, spent months away from the platforms to regroup.

There’s a happy medium in here somewhere. The key to helping teens learn to balance social media with real life friendships is to keep the lines of communication open and keep talking. Honest communication shows your teen that you are there to support, not to judge or lecture. It’s also important to walk the walk. Disconnect on weekends and show your teen that there is a whole world out there that doesn’t require a handheld screen.  She may miss her phone a lot less than she thinks she will and this is a very good lesson to learn. Hope you got a useful information on how social media affects mental health.