Are You Affected By This Issue?
Do you use social media? If you answered yes, there is something you need to know. Think about how much you use it, how much it benefits you and how much it hurts you. While it may seem to be a positive in your life there are other implications, hidden ones that are very impactful to you and your future. Behind the pictures, tweets, and texts, there is a side of social media that is not yet fully understood, a dangerous side. Social media can affect your health without you even realizing it. The most impacted group of people are adolescents and young people who use social media more than any other age group. These effects slowly grow until there is little you can do to reverse them. Before you continue your constant social media use, consider the effects and take a second thought before checking snapchat for the 30th time today.
Social Media Use
The most common people to overuse social media are people between the ages of 10 and 24. This stage is one of the most important in a person’s life as they will make some of their biggest decisions. It may come as a surprise to you that up to 95% of them have access to something at their fingertips that can have dramatic effects on them for the rest of their life. Would you take a pill with no health benefit but could possibly harm you? I didn’t think so. Around 95% of teenagers in the United States have access to a smartphone and just under half of them reported “constantly” using social media throughout the day (Anderson et al., 2018). This is a crazy high portion of the population. Interesting to think 50% of our up and coming generations are playing with their mental health on a daily basis. Social media can come in many forms, the most common of which are YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter all of which provide similar ways to share information with people. Social media can be defined as a form of electronic communication such as websites for social networking and microblogging through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (Merriam-Webster).
Since social media was invented in 1997, there is not enough research to fully explain the scope of this issue. While there is still lots of information out there, answers on the full extent of its impacts on this age group are still emerging and not yet fully understood. One of the most important things found while researching the effects social media has is the constant idea of how much more research must be done to understand these effects. See this blog isn’t all bad. Two articles came to the conclusion that even though there are health implications, the extent cannot be understood without more research. Also they found that some research gathered was done too fast and may need to be redone in more controlled ways (Coyne et al., 2019 & Richards). On the other hand though they still confirmed there were some health effects, so you still could be screwed already. One thing is clear though, social media does in fact have a negative impact on the health of adolescents and young people, you included, even though the extent is not fully understood. Therefore understanding this issue is crucial because of how many people use it. Don’t you want to know how it could be affecting you? Keep reading because there are many different ways it impacts you. The most common, and hardest to identify, is on your mental health. Let’s hope it hasn’t already gotten to you!
So What Has Research Found?
A study by the University of Nevada found that a whopping 85% of teenagers actually use social media. This may be even more surprising than the fact that 95% of them have access to smartphones. The most commonly used platform found was YouTube, followed by Instagram and Snapchat. If you thought those stat lines were crazy just listen to this one. A different study found that 94% of people ages 18-24 have used or use YouTube (Mir et al., 2021). Hard to decide between disbelief or amazement by these researchers’ results isn’t it. While numbers certainly vary from study to study, it is clear that nearly all teenagers have access to social media and of those with access nearly all of them use it. Does it seem important to understand the health effects yet? Mir also found that many studies like hers have found an association between time spent on social media and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Studies such as (Barthorpe et al., 2020) who sought to find if time spent on social media was linked to poor mental health in adolescents. Their findings concluded that a greater amount of time spent on social media did indeed increase the risk of self harm and depression while also lowering self-esteem levels. Probably could have guessed that but still isn’t what you want to hear with a generation obsessed. Another study focused on data from the Millennium Cohort Study, something Barthorpe also used in her research. Just as almost any other research done on this topic they found social media use had a negative health impact, more specifically how online harassment led to poor sleep, low self-esteem, body dysmorphia, and depression (Kelly). Even simply texting was linked to an increase in anxiety. The constant use of social media has many young people struggling with socializing and understanding body language and facial expressions. One of the most common issues for young people is peer acceptance and the “perfect” life often portrayed. During these years in a person’s life peer acceptance is vital to fitting in society. The “likes” and “followers” can be very bad for someone’s mental health when they don’t think they match up to their peers (Ehmke). Not all is bad and lost in the world of social media. As with almost anything there are ways to fix these problems. The best way to control the time spent is to track your screen time and set limits. Also getting involved in something outside your phone like a sport or club can counter most of these mental health issues. So go outside for once and sit in the grass.
While all of this may seem scary, the effects social media has on someone varies from person to person and in most cases has a very limited impact. While it is certain social media slowly wears on your mental health, there must be additional research done before you delete your accounts and throw your phone in the ocean. Mental health is the main area that is affected. While young people are moving up through this important stage of life, it is very important to be wary of these possible life long impacts. Social media restricts them from properly understanding body language and social cues. During this time they must learn these abilities to be successful later in life. With this, they also have a high chance of feeling bad for themselves as a result of the “perfect” life people share with their friends online. Self-esteem is a big one here that suffers among young people (Ehmke). One last reason to get excited to jump back online is that social media is responsible for record levels of anxiety, depression, suicide, self-harm, and other forms of mental health. However, these are only common among those who are “addicted” to social media (Marchant et al., 2017), something I hope you are not. While it is certainly safe to continue using social media…somewhat, this is simply to inform you of the negative effects you could already have, your welcome.