Is social media impacting our mental health?

A recent study has suggested that 4 out of 5 of the most popular social media sites have had a negative impact on young people's mental health, according to a survey conducted with the Royal Society of Public Health and Young Health Movement. From the five platforms considered, Instagram has the worst impact on mental health. It is suggested that Instagram can decrease self-esteem and body confidence whilst increasing anxiety levels. Fitness and lifestyle accounts have become more and more popular as well as models posting images of their bodies - resulting in young people comparing their own body and appearance. However, not everything you see on social media is a reality, with many people now trying to prove that by showing the difference in angles and lighting.

A survey of 1500 people, aged between 14-24 found that health and fitness pages across social media platforms make people feel inadequate and anxious in their own body and self. According to the same survey - Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook are also harmful. Youtube is said to show positive effects on mental health in young people. All four ‘harmful’ platforms are said to have a negative effect as they each worsen children's body image concerns. Cyber-bullying is also a concern with so many social media platforms easily accessible. The four platforms can also cause sleep problems, anxiety and depression.

The 1,479 people surveyed were asked to rate the impact that the five previously mentioned social media platforms had on their mental health. They were surveyed on 14 different aspects of their mental health and wellbeing. This included sleeping problems, anxiety, depression, bullying and loneliness. As previously stated, Instagram scored the worst, rating badly for seven out of the fourteen areas. This is not surprising given the rising number of fitness and health pages, sharing ‘fitness motivation’. It seems to be taking a negative toll on young people’s confidence with their own bodies. Young people however also suggested that it can be used in a good light, allowing self-expression.                                                                                                                 

Many of us fail to recognise that what we see across social media is not always true. This can have a number of meanings for all different kinds of reasons. The majority of ‘fitness motivation’ images which are ruining young people’s self-confidence typically include the perfect angle and lighting. Over the past few months, numerous accounts have been showing the reality to those perfect shots. Few Instagram models have been ‘redefining beauty standards’ by showing the before and after pictures of themselves in edited and unedited mode and the difference in their body just due to their posture at the time the photograph was taken. A number of projects worldwide have also begun to challenge the ‘ideal body’. An example of this being the ‘Dove self-esteem’ project.

With the advances of technology, social media has become a great place for numerous things including self-expression, contacting friends/family and sharing your achievements. Although, the number of issues it also raises are fairly concerning. In numerous ways, social media can impact our mental health and wellbeing negatively however some studies show that it can also have positive aspects. It is mainly dependent on finding a healthy balance between real relationships and virtual connections.

There are numerous ways in which you can be affected by social media, here are some key things to look out for:

  • Low self-esteem.

  • Feeling low when you see other people's images and lifestyle.

  • Envy of others people lives - wishing your life was like someone else's.

  • Finding social media as your first and only choice of activity done for enjoyment.

  • Not having as many face to face conversations with your relatives and friends and feeling disconnected.

  • Being unable to do anything without feeling you need to share it online.

If you are experiencing any of the above, it may be worth taking some time out from social media and focus on yourself and your relationships.

Sam GlassComment