Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Looks can be deceiving; sometimes a social media post with high engagement is a false reality shaped by a person who is battling depression, anxiety and loneliness. Too frequently, young adults feel societal pressures to maintain a certain image on social media, leading to the destruction of mental health.

According to the Children’s Mental Health report, social media usage can lead to anxiety disorders, depression and perceived social isolation (PSI). A nationally-representative survey sample of young adults found a correlation between social media use and higher levels of anxiety and anxiety disorder. Young adult users who spent more time on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter reported higher rates of depressive and anxiety symptoms.

PSI can also be referred to as the fear of missing out, or “FOMO,” a popular term used by college-aged kids. Moreover, a correlation exists between time spent on social media and PSI. A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania in 2018 asked students to limit social media usage to 10 minutes per platform or per day. Results found that limiting social media usage does in fact decrease FOMO as well as depressive symptoms, loneliness and anxiety.

Even celebrities like Selena Gomez feel the need to participate in social media detoxifications. Gomez has been open with her mental health struggles and how social media contributes negatively to her self-image. She admitted to not having Instagram on her phone because she compares all aspects of herself and her life to others. Gomez has also built a makeup line called “Rare Beauty” that promotes self-love and acceptance and formed a community to talk about mental health issues openly.

The Children’s Mental Health Report also talks about the correlation social media has with body dissatisfaction and eating disorders among young adults. Individuals feel that social media encourages competition among others and pushes people to look a certain way. Emma Chamberlain, a YouTube and social media star, has been a victim of eating disorders as a result of social media for as long as she can remember. In an article with Cosmopolitan magazine, she discussed how becoming famous contributed more to her body dysmorphia. Chamberlain is open about her mental health on her social platforms and vowed to never use photo-editing apps. She also refused to sign brand deals with weight loss products to keep it authentic with her followers and young audiences.

Some may argue that social media makes people feel more connected to friends and family, but how connected are you to the actual person?

College students use several techniques to create a falsified online persona. Losing weight, using an editing app and posing provocatively are the most popular ways college-aged students enhance their image to attract more “likes and engagement,” according to a journal article titled “Characteristics of Social Media ‘Detoxification’ in University Students.” So to what extent are you staying connected with the person behind the screen, if that person is altered on social media? Social media is not reliable to stay fully connected with someone. Social media has become a part of the world we live in and is not going away anytime soon. In order to prevent more college-aged students from developing anxiety, depression or eating disorders, we must limit our time on social media and participate in social media detoxifications when necessary. Researchers suggest limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day to lead to an improvement in a humans well-being.

Mental health and social media are two things that are here to stay. You decide which is worth prioritizing.

Lindsey Maguire is a third-year Media & Culture major with a minor in Communication Studies.

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