The definition of social media given in the dictionary is: websites and other online means of communication that are used by large groups of people to share information and to develop social and professional contacts.
The most popular medium today is probably Facebook. It includes other mediums like blogs, forums, microblogs, social gaming, video sharing etc. When these platforms surfaced nobody would’ve thought that social media may also cause various mental health issues. In this post we’re going to discuss about some of them. But before that we should know a little more about the history.
The development of social media started off with simple platforms such as sixdegrees.com. Unlike instant messaging clients, such as ICQ and AOL’s AIM, or chat clients like IRC, iChat or Chat Television, sixdegrees.com was the first online business that was created for real people, using their real names. The first social networks were short-lived, however, because their users lost interest.
The initial social media interaction was only for PC’s or Mac’s. But since the evolution of smartphones majority of the interactions are now on the mobile phones mainly through different apps. Mobile social media is different in the fact that companies and market researchers can collect location based data and also the time sensitive data.
According to Statista, in 2019, the social media users increased from 2.46 billion in 2017 to 2.77 billion. In 2020 so far that number has increased to 3.8 billion, an increase of more a billion in just 1 year. The top 5 social networks according to the number of users:
1) Facebook: 2.498 billion
2) YouTube: 2 billion
3) WhatsApp: 2 billion
4) Facebook Messenger: 1.3 billion
5) WeChat: 1.165 billion
There has been speculation that social media has become perceived as a trustworthy source of information by a large number of people. The continuous interpersonal connectivity on social media, for example, may lead to people regarding peer recommendations as indicators of the reliability of information sources. This trust can be exploited by marketers, who can utilize consumer-created content about brands and products to influence public perceptions.
Mental health effects
1) A study done in the US indicated that approximately 7% and 18% adults were affected by depression and anxiety due to social media use. There have been studies which also found that exacerbation of mood disorders like anxiety and depression is linked with superfluous usage of social networking sites.
2) Inadequacy: the images and videos that people see, even if they know that it’s manipulated, may make oneself insecure about their look and about their life.
3) FOMO: using social media platforms especially Facebook and Instagram can cause various FOMO issues. It seems to exacerbate feelings that others are having more fun or living better lives than you are. The idea that you’re missing out on certain things can impact your self-esteem, trigger anxiety, and fuel even greater social media use causing more distress of missing out.
4) Isolation: A study at the University of Pennsylvania found that high usage of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram increases rather decreases feelings of loneliness.
5) Self-absorption: Sharing endless selfies and all your innermost thoughts on social media can create an unhealthy self-centeredness and distance you from real-life connections.
6) Cyberbullying. About 10 percent of teens report being bullied on social media and many other users are subjected to offensive comments.
6) Masking other disorders: excessive social media use may mask other disorders like stress, depression etc. One may feel less lonely when they use social media and also to distract them from the unpleasant thoughts that they may have.
7) Social awkwardness: excess usage can cause social anxiety as spending more time online than real world may cause one to be fearful and anxious while talking to people outside.
8) Sleep disorders: Excess usage can cause stress and other mood disorders which can interfere with sleep. Using electronic gadgets excessively alone causes sleep disturbances and when coupled with social media may exacerbate any pre existing sleep disturbances.
9) Physical effects: scrolling social media on their phones or other devices meant that people sat for longer periods of time and had less time for exercise. People also experienced more incidences of headaches due to continuous eye strain and also stomach problems due to prolonged sitting.
10) According to a survey by Common Sense media:
- 35 percent of teenagers on social media worry about being tagging in unattractive photos
- 27 percent are stressed out about how they look when they post pictures
- 22 percent feel bad about themselves when nobody comments on or “likes” their photos
Over the past 10 years or so, social media has entrenched into our lives presenting both challenges and opportunities. Much of the existing research about social media use and mental health effects are based on self reporting. But more active and experimental research is required to correctly identify the risk factors that might help in prevention of development of mental health issues and also to develop targeted treatment and therapies against it.