Mental Health & Social Media

LISTEN: Mrs. Hildreth speaks her thoughts on how social media affects mental health.

Students of the GD busy on their phones at academic support

By: Elizabeth Dewey ’19

Have you ever been scrolling through videos and pictures on social media and suddenly seen that a big chunk of your time has flew by? Crazy right? If you relate to this scenario, you are not the only one. This obsession and craving of social media is harming both teens and young adults mental health everywhere.

Social media takes an enormous part of teens daily lives. Apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter have become a necessity for teens in our generation, creating an addiction. Although social media allows us to connect with people all over the world, our reliance on it can have a serious effect on our mental health.

Having this desire and addiction of social media leads to issues with self-esteem, personal connections, sleep, and anxiety or depression. Students of Regis Jesuit, Lauren Basilico, Brent Dibiase, and teacher Mrs. Hildreth express the prevalence and importance of this issue seen with themselves and the people around them.

Both Brent and Lauren agreed that Instagram and Snapchat were the most commonly used source of social media in high school. Brent Dibiase says, “I think that social media tends to make a lot of those who have it feel a sense of insecurity when they use it. A common theme in high schoolers is the idea of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and I truly believe that this has become a large contributor to the increased levels in teen depression.”

Lauren says that she sometimes gets caught up on “who has more likes or comments or followers” than she does and asks herself if that makes someone better than her because they have a bigger presence on social media. “When I first joined Instagram, I was really insecure. Most of my friends already had upwards of 1,000 followers, and it made me feel inadequate that I didn’t have as many. It’s completely ridiculous, but that’s how I felt.”

On social media, you are able to obsess over people with this image of a “perfect life” and strive to create that for yourself. One study out of the University of Pittsburgh found a correlation between time spent scrolling through social media apps and negative body image feedback. Those who had spent more time on social media had 2.2 times the risk of reporting eating and body image concerns, compared to their peers who spent less time on social media.

In the years that Mrs. Hildreth was growing up in they did not have phones with the advanced apps we have today, they were limited to online computer chatting. She still felt aspects of “FOMO” like Brent said, even though you couldn’t see pictures of other people together like you can now. With apps like Instagram and Snapchat, which came out around 2010, teenagers are able to see more and more of people’s daily lives, making it impossible to avoid comparing yourself to them.

Mrs. Hildreth believes that poor mental health is developed through social media because, “it’s not just the people you know and talk to, it’s friends of friends and then it even becomes celebrities and Instagram celebrities that you now are having to compare your life to. You don’t see those people everyday, you don’t see their low moments or even there mundane moments you only see their highlights. Now you have an infinite number of people to compare yourself to and you’re only comparing yourself to the best parts of their lives.”

The pressure to keep up with the trends, your followers, and your social media identity is taking over the brain. Lauren Basilico shares that she felt pressured to “keep a streak” on Snapchat, costing her time when she could’ve been doing something more beneficial. She feels this pressure with Instagram as well. Lauren says, “when I take a picture, sometimes my mom says, “Oh you should post that its so cute!” And my response is that it’s not “instagram-worthy”. I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to create a good feed, but who’s to say what’s worthy and what’s not?” She makes a great point. Have the high standards of social media made people afraid to be who they are?

Social media has also taken a toll on the average amounts of sleep people are getting. Many teens stay up later than they need to just to scroll through Instagram. Brent says that he “catches himself constantly checking it but not self-consciously, it seems to have just become a habit.”

A Canadian study found that the root problem to less sleep was social media. “Those who spent at least 60 minutes on WhatsApp, Facebook or Snapchat suffered more sleep issues than those who did not.”

While social media poorly affects mental health, it can also be beneficial. Lauren says, “I don’t feel like it’s a necessity, but it is definitely a part of my life. I get a lot of my news through social media, and I wouldn’t be able to keep in touch with friends who have moved or gone to college as well without it.”

Social Media allows us to meet people from all around the world and learn about what they do in their daily lives. It allows us to find new friends, roommates, job interviews, and more. We get the chance to communicate and express our opinions to the world which has had a big effect on the world today. Many important issues in the world have been brought up through social media and have been beneficial to real world problems.

This doesn’t take away the fact that it is a burden on mental health. For teens especially, our brains are still developing and obsessing over lives that are portrayed as perfect is not healthy for our well being and self confidence. It is important that people try to stay away from the comparison parts to social media and focus on seeing what makes them feel good. Technology has already become prominent to younger children which makes it even more valuable to prevent this competitive atmosphere from getting any worse. Obviously we cannot change technology from advancing further, but we can try to improve our own mental health by putting down our phones as much as we can.

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