By Christine Do
Correlation between mental health, social media
Social media has unknowingly taken over our modern day society, manipulating our everyday lives. With phones one reach away and most information accessible with a Google search, it’s easier to fall into the world of the internet than to live in the present. Has social media been affecting our mental health? If so, how?
According to an official from Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches Inc., a study in 2017 of over half a million eighth through twelfth graders found that their levels of depressive symptoms increased by 33 percent between 2010 and 2015. In this same period, the rate of suicide for girls in this age range increased by 65 percent. These increased percentages “correlate with smartphone adoption during that period, even when matched year by year,” according to the study’s lead author, San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge. Clearly, there is a relationship between smartphone usage and the declining mental health of teens.
Perhaps it all started as a way to stay connected to others through innocent acts like Snapchatting or liking a post on Instagram. However, in an attempt to communicate with those far away from us, we distance ourselves from those next to us. Most of us have experienced the common awkward situation of not knowing what to say in a conversation. Instead of trying to talk it out, we instinctively take out our phones as a safety net to avoid the awkwardness of it in general.
“Sometimes when I’m in a big group and I’m not comfortable or I don’t really know the people, I just go on my phone to pass the time,” says sophomore Vanessa Ng.
Because of this, people are not able to build their social skills, making them more susceptible to social anxiety. People have less experience with real social situations and are left with a feeling of isolation. The connections made through social media lack the deep empathy that is present in a face-to-face conversation. Digital emoticons can never fully express an emotion or feeling. Ironically, we are connected, yet alone.
As stated by that same study, “If we’re always playing catch-up to endless online updates, we’re prioritizing social interactions that aren’t as emotionally rewarding and can actually make us feel more isolated.”
With the constant scrolling through pictures and life updates from people you barely know, it’s easy to fall into the mindset of comparing yourself to someone else. Seeing someone out traveling or living their best life could spark a feeling of envy.
“I think it’s inevitable to compare ourselves to social media because we all have our insecurities,” says junior Sophia Pham.
Comparing ourselves to others lowers our self-esteem, and soon enough, some will depend on the number of likes and comments on a post to determine their self-worth.
Along with this, people tend to grab their phones when they’re bored. Such a small instinct can lead to long-term consequences, however. This makes it harder for the brain to focus on a task for a long amount of time, such as writing as essay or finishing our homework. Our attention-span becomes shorter, possibly affecting our academic performance as well.
We’ve all stayed up late to binge our favorite TV show, but sleep deprivation messes with our body clock. According to the Healthline Editorial Team and Rachel Nall, it is known that teenagers need around eight hours of sleep each night, but with homework, extracurricular activities and distractions from our phones, we seldom meet this requirement.
In the end, social media is not necessarily a direct cause of declining mental health, but there is a definite correlation. Despite its possible negative effects, it does vary for each person and impacts everyone in a different way.
“I don’t think social media itself is a bad thing. I think it’s the individual. It’s up to them what they use social media for because it’s just a platform,” says junior Stacy Truong.
In this technological age, it’s best to be mindful of the information we’re feeding our brains. So next time you find yourself scrolling mindlessly on your phone, take a minute to think of what else you could be doing and simply be present.