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How is social media affecting young people’s mental health?

Over the years social media has dramatically changed the way people communicate and how we connect. It’s a powerful tool that allows voices to be heard and raises awareness to a host of topics and causes that may otherwise have gone unnoticed by mainstream media.
Although there are benefits to social media, using it frequently can leave people feeling isolated and unhappy, and as usage increases, there have been concerns about the effects that it can have on young people and their mental health.
With research still ongoing, there are numerous negative impacts that platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are having, including cyberbullying, unhelpful comparisons and addiction.
A recent survey from Vizulize showed that 77% of young adults are concerned about the effects their phone is having on their mental health, with 41% of 18-24 year olds admitting to using their phone for up to 5 hours a day.

The impact social media can have on young people’s mental health

teenager using social media

Some evidence in the UK has found that young people can develop an addiction to social media use, especially those who are introverted, which can result in an increase in loneliness as social media starts to replace social interaction.  
Those who become dependent on social media find themselves with compulsive urges to constantly check various platforms. This can have consequences such as difficulty relaxing, a poor sleep pattern and a negative impact on performance at school and with exams.
Platforms like Instagram are often associated with negative self-esteem and self-image with young people often comparing their lives and bodies to those online, leading to feelings of anxiety and depression. Young people are now faced with unrealistic expectations due to manipulated images being widely available online.
On Facebook and Twitter, user-created pages and groups often trivialise and normalise issues like suicide and self-harm in an attempt at dark humour. This is shown in the form of ‘memes’ that are shared by thousands and could encourage ‘suicide contagion.’
Taking a step back from social media
While there are definite advantages to social media like reaching new audiences and allowing young people to use their voice on various social and political subjects, the fact is social media can have a negative effect on young people’s mental health.
Focusing too much time online can result in becoming disconnected from the real world. Young people are now beginning to take a step back and reduce time spent online, with phones even adding software that monitors how much screen time has been used.
Turning off push notifications and limiting time spent online is a start. Some young people are now opting to take a break from social media altogether by deleting apps from their phone. Taking a ‘detox’ is healthy, allowing people to stay focused on real life goals and reclaiming back time.
Mental health should be a priority for all and it’s important to seek help if social media is having a negative effect; whether that’s taking a much needed break or reaching out to a professional like a GP for help and advice.

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