Social media & mental health

In the age of social media, researchers are finding that the relationship between social media and mental health isn’t always beneficial, especially in young adults. It’s very likely that overuse of social media could be potentially harmful to the mental health of young adults, creating a multitude of problems in their personal and professional lives. The correlation between mental health trends and social media popularity has led many researchers to believe that an association between the two might exist, and it could have serious implications. Given the fact that nearly 84% of people aged 18-29 in the U.S. use at least one social media site1 , it’s safe to say that any findings in research should be taken into great consideration.

What’s the relationship?

Due to the rise in usage, substantial research has already been done on the associations of social media and mental health despite being a relatively new phenomenon. Common observations over years of research find worsening of mental health trends including an increase in self-reports of suicidal thoughts. Throughout the years, research has also shown that some concerns with social media include exposure to abusive behaviors (i.e., cyberbullying), social isolation, stress, depression, and sleep deprivation. Excessive exposure to negative news can also have a huge impact on one’s mental health and wellbeing. 2,3

What’s being done?

Given the fact that a vast majority of individuals use social media daily, establishing a presence for resources on different platforms can provide the accessibility that seems to be lacking. Social media is commonly used to gather information regarding resources for mental health, and it has been encouraged to continue implementing strategies for accessibility and promotion of resources.4 Some researchers have looked into the possibility of creating accessible programs to promote overall well being directly through social media. A few studies in particular have found that peer support in the form of online forums and discussions proved beneficial to countering any negative effects that social media has on mental health, especially the more severe behaviors such as self harm and suicidal thoughts. 5,6

What can I do?

As individuals, it’s important to speak up when you see someone struggling, especially on social media. If someone you know starts to post alarming or concerning content, don’t be afraid to speak up and reach out. Activities such as vaguebooking, or posting something with little clarity to get attention, should be taken seriously and acted upon accordingly. 7 It is also important to monitor your own screen time with many researchers suggesting that you aim for less than two hours a day. 8 This suggestion is based on finding that limitation of screen time can lead to an increase in mood and overall well-being. 9 Until social media itself can provide users with support, resources, professionals, and relief, we must do our best to account for ourselves and those around us.

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