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The Role Social Media Plays in Mental Health

All software programs, websites, and blogs that allow users to talk, exchange material, make video calls, and engage with one another globally are collectively referred to as social media (Glazzard & Stone, 2020). Social media have expanded and become so well-known worldwide over the past 20 years that many researchers are now interested in discovering more about these social platforms and their impacts on society (Glazzard & Stone, 2020). Children and adolescents are the leading and most devoted users of these social platforms, with nearly all connected to social media in some form and many using such media at church or school (Glazzard & Stone, 2020).

The human species is a sociable animal. To prosper in life, humans require the company of others and quality relationships. Studies have shown that social interaction reduces stress, anxiety, and depression, improves self-esteem, brings comfort and joy, prevents loneliness, and even lengthens life (Naslund et al., 2020). On the other hand, a lack of solid social ties can seriously jeopardize one's mental and emotional well-being (Naslund et al., 2020). Furthermore, researchers have discovered that many social media platforms significantly impact negatively morality, behaviour, and even academic performance of our youth in society (Naslund et al., 2020).

Image 1: An active teen on social media

The Drawbacks of Social Media

As social media relies on relatively new technology, scientists have conducted limited research to determine its long-term adverse and positive effects (Nesi, 2020). Despite these barriers, numerous studies have discovered a substantial correlation between using social media excessively and a higher risk of melancholy, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicide ideation. Social media may encourage unfavorable experiences such as a lack of satisfaction with one's life or appearance (Nesi, 2020).

Another concern related to adolescent social media use may be social comparison. People frequently choose to exhibit themselves on social media, which leads to a stream of messages and photographs that are frequently carefully prepared to depict individuals in a favorable light. Some young people may become affected by this and start making damaging comparisons to their own achievements, skills, or appearance (Nesi, 2020). As most individuals are undoubtedly aware, social media shapes one's perceptions of life and friendships, leading to unreasonable expectations. Online authenticity is sadly lacking on most social media platforms (Nesi, 2020).

Image 2: An anxious teen seen using her phone

The next drawback is colloquially known as the fear of missing out (FOMO). While this phenomenon has existed much longer than modern social media, platforms like Facebook and Instagram tend to worsen FOMO. The perception is that missing out on particular things might lower one's self-esteem, cause worry, and increase the use of social media (Abel et al., 2016). For instance, one would spend the entire day checking Instagram feed to make sure no one is doing anything fun without them or recurrently checking messages to see if they have been invited out by anyone. One can feel left out if images of something enjoyable are seen with friends (Abel et al., 2016).

Another drawback is anxiety and depression. Face-to-face interaction is necessary for human mental wellness (Bhat, 2016). Making eye contact with a caring person is the fastest and most efficient way to alleviate stress and improve one's mood. Individuals are more likely to experience mood disorders like anxiety and sadness if indulged in a social media interaction over in person (Bhat, 2016). Among frequent users, social media is linked to despair, anxiety, and feelings of isolation. It doesn't take much thought to understand why. There is a deliberately chosen positive aspects of everyone else's lives on social media, which can contrast with the drawbacks in their lives. It is a surefire way to worry and unhappiness to compare oneself to other people, and social media has made this process much simpler (Bhat, 2016).

Image 3: Depressed young man sitting outside at night.

The last drawback is cyberbullying. Teens report online bullying at a rate of 10%, while many other users see nasty comments frequently (Akram & Kumar, 2017). Twitter and other social media platforms can serve as hubs for the dissemination of damaging rumors, lies, and abuse that can cause long-lasting emotional scars (Akram & Kumar, 2017). Social media make it simpler to make friends and meet new people, but it also provides a quick and easy way to pick on others. Bullies can earn people's trust on (certain) social networks using their anonymity before terrorizing them in front of their friends. For instance, they might make a false online persona and appear nice toward a student, only to later betray and humiliate them (Akram & Kumar, 2017). These cyberattacks frequently cause severe emotional damage and, in some circumstances, even inspire people to harm themselves or commit suicide. As it turns out, cyberbullying affects people of all ages. Adults might also experience internet abuse (Akram & Kumar, 2017).

Positive Effects of Using Social Media

Social media is still a useful tool for bringing together people and communities around the world, despite its shortcomings (Nesi, 2020). Small-group networking through social media is advantageous for many. Teenagers who struggle with anxiety and social skills can express themselves and connect with others through social media. As it allows people to connect and communicate with other like-minded people (Nesi, 2020). Social media act as platforms to give the voiceless a voice. People who have experienced assault and abuse, for instance, can use online forums to express their opinions, share their struggles, and receive assistance (Nesi, 2020). Social media can also serve as a platform for creativity and self-expression as well as for education and information (Nesi, 2020); Using social media, it is quite simple to learn from other professionals and experts. Anyone can be followed in order to pick up knowledge from them and advance their expertise in any profession (Akram & Kumar, 2017). No matter where we live or what our educational background is, we can educate ourselves for free (Akram & Kumar, 2017) The main benefit of online social networking is that it allows you to keep up with the latest global events. Nowadays, print and television media are frequently biased and fail to convey the true message (Akram & Kumar, 2017) .

Image 4: Picture of a woman using social media happily

How to Handle the Negative Effects of Social Media

The following suggestions will help one take proactive measures to counteract social media's harmful effects.

It's okay to take a break. It is essential to rest, refuel, and reorganize when you take a break from social media. This aids an individual to give parts of the body priority (Graham et al., 2021). Taking pauses increases productivity as well. It is essential to have vacations for a short while or longer; this can make one feel better and it also changes the way one responds to the negative effects of social media (Graham et al., 2021). Another thing to do is to make an inspiring follow list. One should review a follow list if there is concern that using social media is causing bad feelings (Ranissa et al., 2019). Unfollow the accounts that might be causing the previously described negative emotions, and follow accounts that improve the mental state of a person, are entertaining, and inspire people to achieve goals (Ranissa et al., 2019). It is important to consider keeping a profile where the majority of the new followers are only actual friends and local authorities so that social media can be used for what it was designed for: making new friends and preserving relationships even when we are separated (Ranissa et al., 2019).

Image 5: Picture of an unfollow button

Finally, it's crucial to place restrictions on how much time is spent on social media. The amount of time spent each day on social media is linked to unpleasant feelings, according to studies (Glazzard & Stone, 2020). Teenagers who spent more than three hours per day on social media may be more susceptible to mental health issues. The amount of time spent on social media can be tracked, monitored, and blocked using various methods, including many apps. Implementing a few straightforward principles is a good way to start putting boundaries on social media (Glazzard & Stone, 2020). As an illustration, refrain from checking social media within an hour of getting up and putting the phone down at least one hour before bed. Other instances include putting the phone aside when out with friends or family. The main point of this advice is to set up sensible boundaries for use of social media (Glazzard & Stone, 2020).


Social media consists of platforms people use to exchange materials, engage with people in other countries, video call, etc. Social media have helped make lives of individuals easier but also affected many negatively. Although there are many negative effects of social media, there are ways to handle the negativities associated with them.

Bibliographical References

Abel, J. P., Buff, C. L., & Burr, S. A. (2016). Social Media and the Fear of Missing Out: Scale Development and Assessment. Journal of Business & Economics Research (JBER), 14(1), 33–44.

Akram, W., & Kumar, R. (2017). A Study on Positive and Negative Effects of Social Media on Society. International Journal of Computer Sciences and Engineering, 5(10), E-ISSN: 2347-2693.

Bhat, S. (2016). Effects of Social Media on Mental Health: A Review.

Glazzard, J., & Stone, S. (2020). Selected Topics in Child and Adolescent mental Health.

Graham, S., Mason, A., Riordan, B., Winter, T., & Scarf, D. (2021). Taking a break from social media improves wellbeing through sleep quality. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 24(6), 421-425.

Naslund, J. A., Bondre, A., Torous, J., & Aschbrenner, K. A. (2020). Social Media and Mental Health: Benefits, Risks, and Opportunities for Research and Practice. Springerlink.

Nesi, J. (2020, March 1). The Impact of Social Media on Youth Mental Health. North Carolina Medical Journal.

Ranissa, A., & Astuti, C. W. (2020). Competence in Managing the Balance between Social Media and Mental Health. TarFomedia, 1(2), 17-21. ISSN 2720-9431.

Image Sources

Cover image : Fox-Leonard, B. (2022, November 20). Mental health labels may be doing more harm than good – here’s why. The Telegraph.

Image 1: Social Media, Anxiety and Depression in Teens. (2020, May 30). Specialized Therapy Services. [Photograph].

Image 2: Knispel, S. (2022, July 6). Getting fewer ‘likes’ on social media can make teens anxious and depressed. News Center. [Photograph].

Image 3: Freepik. (2022, March 29). Depressed young man sitting outside at night Premium Photo. [Photograph].

Image 4: Johnson, C. (2022, January 14). 4 ideas to help you have a more positive relationship with social media this year. LDS Living. [Photograph].

Image 5: Prell, M. (2018, September 26). Why Everyone Hates to be Unfollowed on Social Media. Medium. [Photograph].

1 Comment

Apr 21, 2023

Hi, I also agree that social media affects everyone's mental health. People are too used to comparing themselves to others, and because of this, their self-esteem decreases. However, you should always pay attention to this, and remember about such resources as Australian Counseling .It's Important to prevent such negative emotions in time.

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Edikan Victoria Inemeh-Etete

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