Introduction: Social Media & Mental Health
In today’s modern world, children under the age of two spend an average of 42 minutes on social media per day. 42 minutes a day may not sound like a lot, but when it comes to infants who can barely lift their finger, let alone walk or talk, it’s a big deal. Childhood development is one of the most important periods in a person’s life; children’s’ brains are very malleable, and so it is extremely important that they are guided properly. This concern does not not only apply to children and infants though. Almost all teenagers (ages 13-17) use social media, the most popular of which is YouTube with an 85% usage rate. Teenagers’ “rapid development of the brain’s socioaffective circuitry may heighten sensitivity to social information, increasing the drive for social rewards and concern over peer evaluation.” This can quickly become a problem as teenagers can easily become obsessed with the positive feedback they receive through social media, causing them to become addicted. There has been a parallel increase between social media usage and mental illness within youth, “with rates of suicide among youth aged 10-24 increasing 56% from 2007 to 2017.” This clearly demonstrates the danger that social media can pose to children and teenagers. Additionally, one of the major problems with social media is the general obsession with appearance and perfection. As mentioned prior, teenagers have susceptible minds, and if they are constantly seeing images of “perfect” people, they will begin to think that that façade is “normal” and they, the teenager, are abnormal if they don’t look like that. Now, the question is, why is this an issue and how do we prevent it?
“Definition of eating disorder
: any of several psychological disorders (such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia) characterized by serious disturbances of eating behavior” – Webster’s Dictionary
Eating disorders involve an obsession with weight and food. With the unrealistic standards of beauty that social media sends, many young teens start to compare their bodies. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to the development of an eating disorder to achieve the “perfect” body.
What are people doing about it?
On all social media platforms, there is a body positivity movement and a “trend” of people spreading uplifting messages about different bodies. The aim of this movement is to add representation in the media and show diversity. Studies show that viewing body positive content helps improve self esteem. The downside with this type of content is that it is still focused on physical appearance, and that is not a healthy focus to have. It is healthiest to also give attention to topics that have nothing to do with physical appearance.
There is also a tiktok account where the creators are currently making an app called Herd that aims to remove the toxicity of social media by removing likes, followers, and overall creating something that is completely different from other current platforms.
What can YOU do about it?
- Share the infographic above and this webpage to spread awareness
- Take this anonymous survey to help you reflect about what you learned
- Disconnect from technology and social media
- When connected to social media, avoid body or appearance focused content and try to follow accounts based on other things you enjoy