The Dark Side of Social Media

Written by on March 5, 2019

According to the BBC, around 40% of the world’s population is currently logged into social media accounts across the globe. That’s almost three billion people ranging in ages all over the spectrum visiting online sites to check up on the latest feeds. On average, society chalks up to and exceeds two hours a day tweeting, snapping, and posting on various social media sites. With all this time dedicated to something so minuscule in comparison to real world problems, why do people obsess over crafting the perfect account to show off? Even more so, what consequences, specifically those related to people’s mental health, do the worldly population face from spending life with their nose in their phone?

Since social media is a relatively new service for the public, there is not much research data specifically covering the relationship between social media usage and mental health issues. However, the results from the few studies out are in support of linking symptoms of depression, anxiety, body image issues, and eating disorders. 

Coming from a study done by the University of Pittsburg, a correlation between time spent scrolling through social media apps and negative body image feedback was found. Those who spent more time dedicated to social media suffered 2.2 times the risk of reporting an eating disorder than compared to peers who spent considerably less time online.

A separate study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine showed that the more time young adults spent on social media, the more likely they were to have problems sleeping and report symptoms of depression.

The UCLA Brain Mapping Center reported from a small study done with teens 13-18 years old that receiving a high number of likes on photos showed increased activity in the reward center of the brain. Teens are then influenced to only post content they think will get them the greatest amount of likes just so they can achieve that positive feeling again. Bottom line, it feels good to be “liked” by others.

Underneath the heavily negative connotations brought up between social media and mental health, there are a few positives that social media brings about. Socializing can be easy and immediate. People who struggle with social skills or social anxiety or can connect with one another and provide support.

Sadly, the negatives outweigh the positives in this situation. Scrolling through social media too much can result in symptoms or anxiety or depression. Here is how social media can be destructive:

Focusing on likes. In order to gain the most possible likes on their posts, teens may choose to post content they normally wouldn’t post. Some could go as far as altering their appearance or engaging in dangerous and risky activities.

Making comparisons. Social media accounts appear as the highlight reels of others’ lives, and it’s difficult to avoid making comparisons. Everything from physical appearance to life circumstances to perceived successes and failures are under a microscope on social media.

Having fake friends. It is nice to follow friends on social media, but what about random people? Accounts can easily gain thousands of followers, many of which people have no idea who is requesting to follow them. Some individuals don’t care who they let follow them, just as long as they get their obligatory “likes” from others. Having no privacy can be a real issue here. 

Less face time. Social interaction skills are crafted from practice. Individuals don’t work on building empathy and compassion when they only engage with others online. Human communication is more powerful than it is credited in this online age.

With more and more people creating accounts and spending hours solely focused on their news feeds, more harm mentally is bound to happen. It is a scientifically proven fact. If you find yourself experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety next time you scroll through social media, unfollow or block the accounts that are creating these feelings. Taking a break from social media may even be necessary. Seeking help or talking to someone can also alleviate symptoms caused by negative social media use. After all, more people than none are also experiencing similar situations. 


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