Nowadays, it is easy for everyone to access anything and be aware of what is going on in the world and keep updated about the news. People use social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc. for many reasons, such as for business reasons, motivational platforms, or just for fun, but some people do use these platforms the wrong way. Many people use social media for good causes and stay connected with their loved ones, but in many ways, it has affected young people’s mental health negatively and can cause them to have low self-esteem. There is a positive side to social media usage, but we need good solutions to make it better and decrease the chances of getting young people harmed by it.
Effect on Mental Health
As social media platforms are increasing in number, young adults and teenagers are getting addicted to them and have been increasingly using them, which is affecting their mental health negatively. According to Harvard Medical School Affiliate, “The platforms are designed to be addictive and are associated with anxiety, depression, and even physical ailments. According to the Pew Research Center, 69% of adults and 81% of teens in the U.S. use social media. This puts a large amount of the population at an increased risk of feeling anxious, depressed, or ill over their social media use.” One of the reasons these platforms are addictive is because people want to see how many likes they get and who likes their content, which keeps the users engaged in these sites. Many teenagers and young adults are in competition over how much their content is spread, and sometimes they may post things to “explicitly” tell someone something that they don’t want to face to face, which creates harmful interactions and negative behaviors. Also, they may become a victim of cyberbullying, which can lead them to have suicidal thoughts. Even though these platforms have privacy settings, there is no privacy in reality because many of our followers are people that we don’t even know personally. Young people accept most of their follow requests because they want to have “more followers” who can screenshot anything and use them for any purposes. When people engage with others online more often, it is not healthy for them because human connection in-person is an even more powerful tool. Because there is no real privacy on social media, anyone can have access to their pictures and information and able to text them. This privacy concern affects the mental health of many teenagers in that strangers can start blackmailing them, including emotionally, which causes teenagers to get into depression. Many people talk to strangers on social media from other countries that they have never met and may eventually get into rushed relationships, which really affects mental health negatively. We are not sure if what the other person is telling is really true, and we start to think and worry about it. In addition, the more time people spend on social media, the more likely they are to have sleeping problems and weak focus on their own goals and work.
Many young adults may be a target of many kinds of disorders such as eating disorders and body image anxiety. When their social media usage increases, they may develop eating and body image concerns when they see other people on social media having “the perfect body” or “perfect skin”. They don’t realize how many of the images are edited to make them seem flawless. This really lowers their self-esteem because they want to “become like those people.” They start making comparisons regarding physical appearance, success and failures, amount of followers/likes, and other life events. The BBC News stated, “Social media sites make more than half of users feel inadequate, according to a survey of 1,500 people by disability charity Scope, and half of 18- to 34-year-olds say it makes them feel unattractive.” Women often compare themselves when they see happy selfies of other women and get surrounded by negativity. The BBC News described another study of 1,000 Swedish Facebook users where they found that women who spent more time on Facebook felt less happy and confident: “When Facebook users compare their own lives with others’ seemingly more successful careers and happy relationships, they may feel that their own lives are less successful in comparison.” People now post pictures of anything and anywhere they go because it’s so easy to upload them now and this makes other people think that because other people have happy pictures, their lives are perfect. In reality, the photos that we see are a mostly idealized version of life, not an accurate one, which affects people’s mental health to make them think they have to fit into the “idealized version” to fit in or be beautiful.
Advantages of Social Media
The University of Nevada states, “social media benefits adolescents and teens by helping them develop communication skills, make friends, pursue areas of interest, and share thoughts and ideas.” Nowadays, it is very easy to stay connected with friends and families who live far from us, and most of the social media now also have audio and video call features that we can use to communicate with others. Many people have platforms that they use to educate others and bring awareness about certain topics to spread knowledge and positivity. Many people also use social media to promote their business so more people can come and buy their products. Social media does have its positive side and many benefits for young people, from socializing, sharing their ideas and learning about important issues, to staying updated on what is going on in the world or just for having fun. Social media is not bad if we all use it the right way; we just need to come up with good solutions to make social media better and safer as our young generation is growing in this very fast-growing technological world.
Solutions to Make Social Media Better
To start, we should begin working on ameliorating the more influential social media platforms, such as YouTube and Instagram. YouTube is growing very fast now as more people are becoming YouTubers and uploading videos every day, and everyone can easily make their account. It is an entertaining app where we can watch our favorite shows, movies, and inspirational YouTubers, but many people also upload inappropriate content that is also easy for young teenagers and kids to see. Even though there are options to report, YouTube needs to be updated so that videos like these are automatically deleted and not just when they are reported. In addition, since there are many ways how social media can affect mental health negatively, influencers should also share their other side of life too: their struggles. Some people don’t just share their happy moments, but they also share their struggles, which can really motivate others reading. I really like when they do this because it shows that those people are being real and that life is not perfect. I also follow many doctor students on Instagram because I am also hoping to become one, and those students share stories about both their success and failures to show that their journey is not just glamourous: it’s about working hard and having persistence. More people should start doing this in their platforms, so it doesn’t give other people the idea that their lives are perfect- their followers will be able to relate to them too. Most importantly, parents need to check on their teens too when they spend too much time on their phones to see if they are okay and communicate with them effectively and make sure no one is harming them such as through cyberbullying. They should try to put them in other activities to keep them busy and productive.