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Is it time to drop social media?


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SURVEY

Please take the survey/quiz below before looking through the website. Be honest with your answers in order to be able to reflect on them when you finish going through the website. 

Click here!

Here’s my short introduction video. It briefly talks about my personal connection/purpose for making my website about social media.

PURPOSE

The purpose of my Catalyst Conference project is to create awareness among teenagers and adults about the dangers of social media, and the different ways it can impact their mental health and create and increase mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and different eating disorders so that they change the way they use social media, to a more healthy way. This issue is something everyone needs to care about because it is affecting the way we all live as a society. Many of us have become obsessed with numbers—the amounts of followers and likes we have, and are afraid to live our lives because of the intense fear we have of being judged, and I think social media is a huge factor to why this happens. If everyone starts thinking like this, it is hard for us, as a society, to advance and make positive developments to the world, which makes this such a worthwhile problem to invest in.

I have gone to the same school my whole life. I have grown up with many of the same people and seen them grow up, just like they’ve seen me grow up. In the past 2 years, I have seen the people I have grown up with become obsessed with social media and the way it has and continues to negatively affect them and their mental health, whether they want to admit it or not. I have seen several of them become more closed off than before, obsessed with numbers—likes, followers, etc. I have also noticed that the people who seem obsessed with social media have been more and more concerned about their body, making more negative comments about their body than ever before. Some of my friends have also experienced cyberbullying, sleep deprivation, less frequent face-to-face interactions, and toxic comparisons in so many different ways. I have never heard anyone in my school talk about this issue, and often times seemed like they just praised social media, including many of my teachers who also love keeping up with their social media accounts. This caused me to research about this topic a while ago and I found that a psychology professor at San Diego State University discovered that teens who spend 5 or more hours a day online were 71% more likely to have at least one risk factor for suicide compared to teens who spent only 1 hour a day online, which completely shocked me.

Even though I have also seen the amount of positivity social media can bring to someone, for I have experienced myself, I do feel like since no one really talks about this issue here, many teenagers and adults don’t know how to use social media safely, causing me to see more of the negativity social media can bring to people, especially since I have also noticed the negative effects it has brought upon me. Although I feel do see social media affecting teenagers more, I also see it affecting adults. I have had conversations with a lot of my friends who expressed their serious concern for their parents because they seemed to be obsessed with social media, many times not fulfilling their responsibilities. This is why I decided that my target audiences are both teenagers and adults. It is important that adults, especially parents and teachers, are able to recognize signs that point to anyone, especially teenagers, having a mental illness, mainly because of social media, to be able to help them, but also to recognize the signs in themselves because as adults, there are responsibilities they absolutely need to fulfill. It is also important that teenagers are able to do this because they are more prone to suffering from the negative effects of social media since nowadays being a teenager involves so much social pressure to be ‘perfect’ and fit certain characteristics. This is the right project for me because I have been affected by social media in many different ways and truly understand how social media can negatively affect someone. This focuses on depression, anxiety and eating disorders because these are the ones I have seen and heard social media impacting more.

How many people is social media affecting? 

The worldwide accessibility to the internet and social media is now shaping the world as we know it. The number of social media users worldwide in 2019 is 3.484 billion, up 9% year-on-year. Northen, Western and South Europe and North America have the largest internet penetration with between 88%-95% internet users compared to the total population.  Pew Research Internet Survey data found that YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat are now the most popular online platforms among teens. 

Although social media can be great for a number of things like connecting with friends/family, finding news/information, meeting others with same interests, for entertainment purposes, getting support from others, and it can be great for self-expression, it also has extremely harmful effects. We’ve all heard about the endless catfishing stories and of course, meeting someone you met online in person alone might not be such a great idea, but how often does that really happen? The truth is, the worst thing social media can do it negatively impact people’s mental health. And not just teens’. It also affects adults for 69 percent of U.S. adults are now social media users, according to the latest data from Pew Research Center. Plenty of studies have found correlations between higher social media use and poorer mental health, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. 

This survey from Pew Research Center shows the percentage of adults using different social media platforms, by age group, in January 2018. It is now over a year from then, and these numbers have risen.

ANXIETY

The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders: Fifth Edition (DSM-V) classifies anxiety disorders into several main types. There is: 

  • panic disorder
  • specific phobia
  • generalised anxiety disorder
  • agoraphobia
  • selective mutism
  • separation anxiety disorder
  • social anxiety disorder

There are many causes to anxiety disorders, some being genetics, brain chemistry, and environmental stressors. Social media has been found to be a big cause for some anxiety disorders, mainly social anxiety disorder, which affects 15 million adults, or 6.8% of the U.S. population.

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A large item contributing to social media anxiety is the compare-and-despair factor; that is, pictures of friends on a seemingly glamorous and exciting vacation might make your weekend spent watching movies in your room feel pathetic, which in turn can lead to unsettling anxiety. This also happens with followers. Users can take the number of followers other people have and compare it to the number of followers they have, twisting them to support negative thoughts.

Any time a user posts something on their social media account, they are also more likely to be worried about the number of likes or comments they get on it, which is likely to then heighten their anxiety significantly.

Another social anxiety triggered by online media is the fear of missing out; pictures of a party where the user was not invited, for example, can take a toll on self-esteem, say mental health specialists

A survey conducted by the Salford Business School at the University of Salford, where 228 participants were polled for Anxiety UK’s research, found that 73 percent of people would panic if they lost their smartphone, while another 54 percent admit to checking their phone “while lying in bed.” Since most people who have phones have social media, the simple fact of not being able to access it can cause someone great anxiety.

They also found that people who are anxious and socially insecure use Facebook more than those with lower scores on those traits, probably because those who are anxious find it easier to communicate via social media than face-to-face.

If you are predisposed to anxiety it seems that the pressures from technology act as a tipping point, making people feel more insecure and more overwhelmed

Signs you or a loved one might have anxiety:

  • Excessive worrying
  • Feeling agitated
  • Restlessness 
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Irritability
  • Tense muscles
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Panic attacks 
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Irrational fears

DEPRESSION

Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. It causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home. Thankfully, depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression eventually, respond well to treatment. Almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms. However, it can be extremely dangerous if someone doesn’t get treated. Different factors such as biochemistry, genetics, personality, and environmental issues can play a role in depression.

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, found a distinct link between social media usage, depression, and loneliness.

A 2017 study of over half a million eighth through 12th graders found that the number exhibiting high levels of depressive symptoms increased by 33 percent between 2010 and 2015. In the same period, the suicide rate for girls in that age group increased by 65 percent.

Smartphones were introduced in 2007, and by 2015 fully 92 percent of teens and young adults owned a smartphone. The rise in depressive symptoms correlates with smartphone adoption during that period, even when matched year by year, observes the study’s lead author, San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge.

Some experts see the rise in depression as evidence that the connections social media users form electronically are less emotionally satisfying, leaving them feeling socially isolated.

Another theory about the increase in depression is the loss of self-esteem, especially in teenage girls, when they compare themselves negatively with artfully curated images of those who appear to be prettier, thinner, more popular or richer.

Another possible source of depression may be what teenagers are not doing during while they’re spending time on social media, including physical activity and things that generate a sense of accomplishment, like learning new skills and developing talents.

Signs you or a loved one might have depression:

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Appetite or weight changes.
  • Sleep changes
  • Anger or irritability
  • Loss of energy. 
  • Self-loathing
  • Reckless behavior.
  • Concentration problems. 
  • Unexplained aches and pains

EATING DISORDERS

Eating Disorders describe illnesses that are characterized by irregular eating habits and severe distress or concern about body weight or shape. Eating disturbances may include inadequate or excessive food intake which can ultimately damage an individual’s well-being. The most common forms of eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder and affect both females and males.

Although social media itself is not the sole cause of an eating disorder, it has fueled individuals to engage in disordered patterns of eating. According to research, “media is a causal risk factor for the development of eating disorders” and has a strong influence on a person’s body dissatisfaction, eating patterns, and poor self-concept.” 

These negative feelings about your body, caused by social media, could easily cause someone to develop an eating disorder.

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Social media is used to share everything, and it has become a significant tool for influencing others and placing value on the perfect body and appearance in several key ways.

Body Objectification:  

Pictures on social media, many of which are altered, play a role in how one seeks validation, often finding our worth by how many “likes” and comments we receive.

Comparison:  

The nature of social media lends itself toward comparison, as we often judge ourselves against others highlight reels of success and happiness. For someone in the depths of an eating disorder, this can be toxic as they compare their body image to those seen on social media. 

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. The participants who spent the most time on social media had 2.6 times the risk. 

A study from York University in Canada found that young women who were asked to interact with a post of someone whom they perceived as more attractive felt worse about themselves afterward. Social media caused them to feel worse about their own appearance simply because they looked at social media pages of people that they perceived to be more attractive than them. Social media has even shaped the idea of what the ‘perfect body’ is through extremely influential models with seemingly perfect skin and who all seem to have the same body type, which seems to have turned into the ‘perfect’ body type.

Triggers:  

For those in recovery, social media offers triggers to engage in eating disordered behaviors. These triggers often come from posts about weight loss, workout routines, dieting, and images of unrealistic ideals of body sizes. For example, there are many posts of before and after weight loss photos that may trigger the urge to lose weight by any means necessary.

Signs you or a loved one might have an eating disorder:

  • Constant or repetitive dieting 
  • Compulsive exercise patterns
  • Making lists of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods
  • Development of patterns or obsessive rituals around food preparation and eating 
  • Avoidance of all social situations involving food
  • Frequent avoidance of eating meals by giving excuses
  • Strong focus on body shape and weight
  • Social withdrawal or isolation from friends, including avoidance of previously enjoyed activities
  • Deceptive behaviour around food, such as secretly throwing food out, eating in secret, etc.
  • Continual denial of hunger
  • Frequent changes in weight
  • Sensitivity to the cold
  • Fainting, dizziness
  • Heightened sensitivity to comments or criticism about body shape or weight, eating or exercise habits
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Moodiness or irritability
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of life being ‘out of control’

HOW TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA SAFELY

  • Unfollow/remove anybody who doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed because you can’t live up to the expectations of others on social media, unfollow those people or pages. Don’t be afraid to unfollow those that aren’t good for your physical or mental health.
  • Use the mute or block function on social media/messaging/gaming apps.
  • Report abuse to social networks on your own messages/posts and others.
  • Join groups and threads that do make you feel good and/or understood.
  • Schedule time in where you don’t use any technology and instead do something mindful and fulfilling like walking, painting, journaling, cooking or playing.
  • Check in with yourself and your use of technology – how does it make you feel? How much is it taking over your life? Do you need to make any changes? Reflect back on your answers to the survey at the beginning of this
  • Be mindful of the tone of what you share or comment. Staying positive and open is more likely to encourage others to interact with you than negativity or complaints.
  • Practice mindfulness to become aware of your surroundings to prevent social networking from swallowing up your whole day

Check the signs I included throughout the website that indicate the possibility of someone having depression, anxiety, or eating disorders. DO NOT SELF DIAGNOSE!! If you think you might have one of those or any mental illness, go to a professional doctor ASAP.

Reflect on how you use social media, using the answers to the survey you filled out in the beginning of the website to help you, and make changes to make your relationship with it healthier, using the tips above. Even if you don’t have a mental illness with social media being a leading cause or a cause at all,  it is important to have a healthy relationship with it from the beginning because it is likely to negatively impact your mental health.

If you fear a friend is going down the wrong path with social media, try talking to them. Give them the tips I included above and express your concern. If they don’t do anything to help themselves, it is important to tell an adult. 

Talk about this issue. More and more influencers online have been speaking out about how social media has negatively impacted their mental health, but, we need more people talking about it. Not just saying how it has negatively impacted them, but also how you can use it wisely. Social media can be great, but it also can be extremely damaging to one’s mental health, which should not be ignored. Taking a break from social media not only is okay, but necessary at times.

#MakeSocialMediaSafeAgain

INFOGRAPHIC

Please feel free to print this infographic (link below) and put it around your school or share it. Spreading awareness of this issue is crucial. People need to stop giving in to social media by obsessing over it. IT. NEEDS. TO. STOP. Social media can be so detrimental to one’s mental health and lead to some of the worst mental illnesses. We need people to reflect on the way they use social media and understand certain mental illnesses in order to make connections on how they use social media and the way they’re feeling

Click to see full infographic:

https://create.piktochart.com/output/38253395-untitled-infographic<

CLICK HERE

TO GIVE YOUR THOUGHTS + OPINIONS ABOUT THIS ISSUE AND BE PART OF A DISCUSSION MORE PEOPLE SHOULD BE HAVING

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cuncic, Arlin. “How to Make Social Media Work for You With Social Anxiety Disorder.” Verywell Mind, www.verywellmind.com/social-network-use-and-social-anxiety-disorder-4117143.

Felman, Adam. “Anxiety: Overview, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323454.php.

Felman, Adam. “Anxiety: Overview, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323454.php.

“Is There a Link Between Social Media and Eating Disorders?” Magnolia Creek, 28 Jan. 2019, www.magnolia-creek.com/eating-disorder-recovery-blog/social-media-and-eating-disorders/.

“Is There a Link Between Social Media and Eating Disorders?” Magnolia Creek, 28 Jan. 2019, www.magnolia-creek.com/eating-disorder-recovery-blog/social-media-and-eating-disorders/.

MacGill, Markus. “Depression: Tests, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 30 Nov. 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/kc/depression-causes-symptoms-treatments-8933.

“Mental Health In The Digital Age (10 Things You Can Do To Prevent The Negative Effects Of Social Media).” WomanToWoman, womantowomanproject.com/mental-health-in-the-digital-age/.

Miller, Caroline, and Child Mind Institute. “Does Social Media Cause Depression?” Child Mind Institute, childmind.org/article/is-social-media-use-causing-depression/.

“NAMI.” NAMI, www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Eating-Disorders.

“Quotes About Depression & What It Feels Like to Sufferers.” PsyCom.net – Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1986, www.psycom.net/depression-what-depression-feels-like.

Raphael, Sarah. “We All Know Social Media Can Seriously Harm Your Mental Health, so What Now?” I, VICE, 2 Jan. 2019, i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/wj3ypy/we-all-know-social-media-can-seriously-harm-your-mental-health-so-what-now.

Richter, Felix. “Infographic: Where U.S. Adults Are Active on Social Media.” Statista Infographics, www.statista.com/chart/13220/social-media-usage-by-americans-30-and-older/.

“Social Media Increases Depression and Loneliness.” Healthline, Healthline Media, www.healthline.com/health-news/social-media-use-increases-depression-and-loneliness#Our-curated-lives.

“Socialmedia Poems on Hello Poetry.” Hello Poetry, hellopoetry.com/words/socialmedia/.“What Is Depression?” Edited by Ranna Parekh, What Is Depression?, Jan. 2017, www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression.


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COMMENTS: 4
  1. April 25, 2019 by Luciano.Ferrato

    Hi Inês,
    This has a copious amount of information and took me 10 minutes to get through it however ALL of it was pertinent and I agree with everything I saw. I wanted to ask about the complications of navigating social media safely. Say your friend who you know in person doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself but they way they post on social media makes you feel poorly about your image and life in relation to them. Do you think blocking friends would give rise to other distresses in life? I also wanted to ask how you could enforce “Schedule time in where you don’t use any technology and instead do something mindful and fulfilling like walking, painting, journaling, cooking or playing.” Overall I love that you present all the harmful possible affects of social media and acknowledge that it doesn’t have to be that way and show how!

    • April 29, 2019 by Inês Reis

      Hey Luciano! Thank you for your comment.
      I think if your friend who you know in person doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself but the way they post on social media makes you feel poorly about your image and life in relation to them, I think it is okay to unfollow/block them. However, I think it would be better if you talked to them first and explained your reasons as to why you unfollowed/blocked them so that no problems arise from doing so. When you have that talk, though, don’t expect them to change the way they post just to make you feel better. Many people I know use social media to highlight the best parts of their lives so they can log in and remember those parts when they are feeling down, so it would be unfair to expect them to change that for you.
      While you have them unfollowed/blocked, I would recommend doing some self-reflection and using some of the tips I included above so that you can follow them again without having any negative feelings.
      More people scheduling time in where they don’t use any social media and instead do something mindful and fulfilling could be achieved simply by spreading awareness about how important that is to do for your mental health, which was one of my goals for this project.

  2. April 27, 2019 by Dr Broderick

    Congratulations on the citation. This is packed with information. I love your suggestion for scheduling time without social media — and if that is really really difficult then maybe it is something to start small….like 30 minutes and do something creative without having your phone on at all. Well done!

    • April 30, 2019 by Inês Reis

      Thank you so much!! 🙂

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