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The negative effect of social media on young people’s mental health and wellbeing

Social Media keeps us connected to the world

Social media can be a great tool for all of us, never before have we been more connected to people from all across the global. It can feel amazing to be absorbed to a world of sharing, posting and engaging with people, places and accounts that we have interests in and inspire us. Social media has also been proven helpful when engaging with businesses, finding products and jobs, and joining groups and communities both local and global.

Why are young people effected by social media?

Growing up can be a difficult time for young people as they try to form an identity in the world around them. Young people tend to experience lower self-esteem as they face pressure from school life and home life, as well as the instinct to ‘fit in’ with peers. Trends, clicks and the idea that we are more likely to follow what looks ‘cool’ has helped evolve social media to what it is today. This can be seen most by the constant need for us to update and post the latest and the greatest.

Most of us live busy lives and for young people the constant need to be on social media can take over their lives. We all can show a highlighted reel of photos, pictures of places, activities and selective body image photos that only represent a small percentage of our human experience. But for some people, young people include, this can sometimes be a distorted form of reality, one we’ve distorted some much we’ve lost identity. The addictive quality of social media posting and the feeling of getting a like, creates a cycle of demand to keep picking up our phone and going back on to social media again and again.

Young people can have negative experiences online such as:

Low esteem and feeling insecure

Judging ones appearance on the constant scrolling through beautiful pictures. We forget half the time that certain photos have been manipulated or chosen to show off the very best elements. Also we have already established that social media only tends to highlight the very best and rarely shows the lows (which everyone has) so can tend to make us feel envious, inadequate and dissatisfied especially if we ourselves are experiencing lower mood.

FOMO – Fear off missing out

While scrolling through social media we tend to find ourselves thinking others look like they are having way more fun than we are. Young people tend to be more engaged with picking up their phones for fear of not missing out, which can be linked to excessive phone use and anxiety.

Isolation

We may think that we are now more connected than every but there is a link between using social media and isolation. This could be due to the fact that it means we are more connect with our phones than the people and environment around us. This can lead to feelings of self absorption and promotes both anxiety and depression as we seek approval online via likes and then feel more attached to going back to receive the validation again.

Cyberbullying

This is massive for teenagers online nowadays as the bullying can be anonymous, random and vicious. Hurtful attacks, lies, rumours and even threats can feeling overwhelming and unnecessary on these platform. This can really have an impact on young people’s mental health as it can be constant and victims often feel targeted.

Everything that’s posted online stays online

This tends to be the case that once something has been posted online it’s hard to then get it back, the same goes for messages and messaging site, it can even be modified/ change or even copied by others online. Even if you’ve posted or sent a picture with good intentions, then after posting we are not in control about where the post or photo will end up. This has been seen in school when explicit photos have ended up circulating around year groups.

It is important to know how social media affects you and factor in positive change

Looking at how you currently use social media could be an indication as to how you can use it in a more beneficial way.

Can you change who you follow to help with self-image? This might involve unfollowing accounts that make you feel less worthy and following more account that make you feel confident in yourself

Can you make your account private and block/ report certain accounts? Making your account private can help you to be more in control of who sees your posting. Any bullying should be reported.

Do you look at social media and end up scrolling for hours? Can you find more time to learn a new hobby, spending time outside or learn more self- reflection? Putting time caps on different apps and finding downtime certain time of the day that you spend without your phone can be helpful.

Do you feeling you suffer from FOMO the most? Planning to meet up with friends or join a group for social interaction. Social media shouldn’t be a substitute for real life interaction. Life happens when you meet up in person not when you interact over social media.

Social media isn’t the enemy

While we have discussed the negative and overwhelming impact that social media has on young people, it is important to note that we can have a health relationship with it. For young people it can be helpful to use the platforms in a safe and positive ways including:

  • privatising accounts
  • thinking about the content you share not just of yourself but of other
  • following account that make your feel good and unfollowing accounts that don’t make you feel good
  • reporting bullying, abuse and stalking and talking about it with an appropriate adult
  • Creating time away from social media to engage with hobbies, friends, nature and the world around you
  • Remembering that social media creates a distorted view on someone life
  • If you are experiencing anxiety and depression because of social media please seek advise

It’s the small steps we can implement on a daily basis that make up the great changes in our lives and have lasting positive impact.

Helpful Resources

Young Minds

Family Lives

Child Mind – Screen time

Internet Matters – Social Media Advice Hub

Our Social Media show

Our show ‘Human’ follows a story highlighting social media for young people and phone use within schools. Human follows the story of two sisters, who are surrounded by rapidly changing technology. Key Messages brought up within the show and workshop are: pressures of social media, self esteem and confidence and consent for taking videos and photos for other. The production tours during the Summer around the UK and is ideal for Year 7, 8 and 9 Students.

Find out more about Human here

At Solomon we are passionate about sharing stories that are meaningful, engaging and that direct change in young people.

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