Social media is in the eye of a national discussion: Congress is holding hearings; The heads of primary social media outlets are in the news daily; the word “algorithms” has joined the daily vocabulary of many. It is about time — research has shown that there is an undeniable link between social media use, negative mental health and low self-esteem.
I am sure many of you are aware that content on Instagram or Facebook is highly coordinated content, including ads and posts that are specifically targeted and designed to appeal to users based on their interests. Users may see others’ posting about their great jobs, exceptional partners, or beautiful homes and feel happy or inspired as a result.
Others, however, may see these posts and feel jealous, depressed, or even suicidal due to the fact that their own life is not as “perfect” as those that they see on Facebook or Instagram. We can all agree that while social media outlets have their benefits, their too frequent use by individuals can cause people to feel increasingly unhappy and isolated.
An estimated 27% of children who spend three or more hours a day on social media exhibit symptoms of poor mental health.
Studies have found that these individuals have worsened social anxiety in groups, higher rates of depression, negative body image, and lowered levels of empathy and compassion toward others when surveyed.
What we know is that the overuse of social networking sites is much more problematic in children and young adults because their brains and social skills are still developing. Research has shown that adolescents who habitually use social media from a young age have severely stunted social interaction skills. Despite the fact that users are interacting with each other on these platforms, many of these types of interactions don’t necessarily translate well to the real world.
A study through the California State University, found that individuals that visited any social media site at least 58 times per week were three times more likely to feel socially isolated and depressed compared to those who used social media fewer than nine times per week.
The constant barrage of perfectly filtered photos that appear on social network sites can also cause low self-esteem and disordered eating in young adults. Though many teens know that their peers share only their best pictures and moments on social media, it’s very difficult to avoid making comparisons. The ongoing exposure to unrealistic beauty standards through social networking sites can affect how teenagers perceive their own bodies.