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What Are The Ways Social Media Affect Mental Health?

In more recent years, the way society communicates has been completely changed. Today, there are apps on our phones that allow us to stay connected with a wide variety of people from all over the world. It is unlike ever before in human history. The emergence of social media occupies a huge role in how we "connect" with one another and make our relationships with those outside of our social circles.

In a 2014 study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, it was found that there were some risks involved in the use of social media that may not be evident to people who are going about their day-to-day usage.

This study concluded that there is a "significant relationship between social media use and measures of well-being, with the most negative associations found for overall time spent on social media."

The study went on to say that there is a "tendency for social media users to compare their own lives to the curated versions of others' lives they see on these platforms."

Below are ways that social media affect mental health:

1. Depression

A study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh found that those who spent a significant amount of time on social media were more likely to report being depressed. It was also related to the "number of hours spent on social media sites as well as the frequency of visits."

In other words, the more people use these platforms and visit them often, the higher likelihood that they may develop depressive symptoms. Social media doesn't cause depression, but it does make people more aware of their lack of happiness and fulfillment in life and makes them feel even lonelier than they already do.

2. Aggression and Antisocial Behavior

Experts hypothesize that people who use social media are more likely to be aggressive and engage in antisocial behavior. Almost all social media platforms invite people to share their opinions, ranging from respectful discourse to outright bullying.

Researchers at Ohio State University found that the more people use social media, the more likely they find it acceptable for others to act aggressively on those sites. They are also more likely to believe bullying is okay if it happens outside of social media.

A depiction of how social media captures peoples minds

3. Social Media Addiction

People are constantly checking their phones for updates, messages, likes, etc. Even though they may be doing it subconsciously throughout the day, there is still an addiction in the brain when someone feels compelled to check their social media accounts.

While this addiction may seem harmless, it still requires the same response from the brain as any other type of addiction would. There are withdrawal symptoms if someone doesn't have access to their phone throughout the day, just as they would experience drug addiction.

4. Victimization and Anxiety

People tend to engage in more risky behavior and be aggressive when using social media, but victims of these acts may suffer from anxiety. This situation causes some teens to become depressed and develop other mental health issues.

For example, the Ohio State University study also found that those who dealt with online and offline bullying were more likely to experience anxiety than those who did not.

5. Social Isolation

People tend to forget the importance of face-to-face interaction. When they are on social media, people can feel like they are interacting with others when, in reality, that's not the case at all.   It is especially true for teens and young adults who use social media more than any other age group.

Social isolation can lead to mental health issues such as loneliness and depression.

6. Loneliness

Although loneliness may seem like the apparent result of social isolation, it deserves its mention because it is common among young adults.

Lonely people tend to turn to social networks to fill that void. Although they may feel that they are keeping themselves busy or occupied by spending time on Facebook, they still have that emptiness inside of them.

Unfortunately, the only way to truly get rid of loneliness is for these people to remove themselves from these forms of social media, even if it is just temporarily.   It gives their brain a chance to rest and reset itself so that they don't have constant feelings of emptiness or depression.

7. Conflicts with Peers

Whether it's a friend, a significant other, or a family member, everyone has disagreements from time to time. However, these conflicts can quickly become amplified when social media sources anger and resentment.

In some cases, this type of behavior can even lead people to engage in cyberbullying, which can cause more problems in the long run.

8. Mental Disorders

People who have mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder tend to be more vulnerable in the online world.   Without a support system in real life, a person with a mental illness can develop a stronger connection to their virtual support network without telling the difference between their healthy relationships and toxic ones.

 

9. Being a Victim of Cyberstalking

Research has shown that cyberstalking is just as serious and traumatic as physical stalking.  Because these acts can occur at any time or place, victims often don't feel safe anywhere, leading to them not wanting to leave their homes at all.

If people receive threats online such as, "I'm going to find you and do this to you," that fear is only going to be heightened.

10. Participation in Cyberbullying

Though bullying has always been a major issue among teens, social media has helped the problem worsen. According to a study by Central Connecticut State University, cyberbullying victims were also at a higher risk for developing mental health issues such as depression and suicidal thoughts.

If people take part in cyberbullying, it only makes the issue worse. Therefore, parents need to talk with their teens about this type of behavior because it can have real consequences not just on the victim's life but also on the bully's future.

11. Low Self-Esteem

For many, social media is a way to earn attention from others in their lives. However, this leads people to idealize themselves and compare themselves to others without considering the various levels of success.

Almost everyone's smartphone has social media apps

Final notes

There's no doubt that social media has many benefits for everyone in this day and age.  However, it can also adversely affect people who rely on these networks for their recreation time and real-life interactions.   

If you or someone you know is dealing with these issues above, please seek professional help.

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