Since MySpace first took off back in the early 2000s, social media has only gotten bigger and more prevalent in everyone's day-to-day lives. However, constant exposure to this, especially among younger people, may not be best for mental health.
What's Your Status?
This take on the effects social media use comes from the UK's Royal Society for Public Health and its Young Health Movement, which conducted a survey among nearly 1,500 people ages 14 to 24. The questionnaire had those answering it rank YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat on a 14-point scale to determine how influential each one may be on one's personal well-being.
The survey results showed that 91 percent of respondents use social media, with those spending more than two hours a day on various platforms more likely to report a negative impact on mental and emotional well-being. The researchers found that extensive social media use among young people resulted in issues such as anxiety, low self-esteem, poor sleep, and depression, to name a few.
Instagram received most of the negative scores, followed by Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Social Media Platforms Ranked
Instagram was found to be the worst because of its negative impact on body image. The survey found seven out of 10 felt worse about the way they looked because of the platform. This was more evident among women, where it showed nine out of 10 considered options such as surgery to change their appearance to fit what they see on social media platforms.
Going to Snapchat, the picture sharing/messaging app was found to have a strong impact on health and well-being, with many respondents suffering from sleep deprivation because of the app. The app also caused people to suffer from thoughts of isolation, with the feeling that they are missing out on whatever their friends or whoever they follow is posting on their profiles daily.
The survey respondents also reported losing sleep over Facebook. Some of those surveyed even talked about the anxiety of not being able to get on Facebook from a device, feeling disconnected from people because of it. There is also the growing issue of cyberbullying that earned Facebook a negative score.
Bullying, in general, is a problem that surrounds people, young and old, and given the rise of social media, it has given people another route to harass people. And since people can set up fake accounts, it can make it harder to find out who the bullies are.
"Bullying on Instagram has led me to attempt suicide and also self-harm,” one teen said.
YouTube was found to have the most positive effect on mental health, with the only negative impact being poor sleep among users. It does prove to be helpful for young people who use it to learn about others' mental health issues and share their own.
Not All Bad
Some UK-based psychiatrists spoke out after the release of the report, saying that it unfairly blamed social media for the mental and personal issues more young people are suffering.
"I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives," said Sir Simon Wessely, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, in a statement to The Guardian. "We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media - good and bad - to prepare them for an increasingly digitized world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message."