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Adverse Effects of Social Media on Mental Health


Mental health is critical at all stages of life, as the emotional, psychological, and social well-being of humans falls under it. Simply stated, it affects thoughts, perception, and motivation towards actions; it also determines how people deal with stress, interact with others, and make decisions (Odgers and Jensen 337). According to research, certain mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, may run in families due to hereditary exposure (Orben et al. 637). The most frequent causes of mental illness, however, are linked to the environment in which individuals grow up, their perception, thinking, coping methods, and susceptibility to addictions. Considering the latter point, the purpose of the paper is to investigate the emotional and philosophical dimensions of social internet addiction. It emerges from the assumption that the addictive nature of social media networks can result in mental conditions.

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Over the past few decades, concerns about the correlation between the peculiarities of the modern lifestyle and mental health illness have developed. Although researchers mention excessive social media use by youngsters among the reasons for the growing rates of psychiatric problems in the same demographic, the mechanisms of the influence remain unclear (Berryman et al. 311). The primary step to exploring them is defining social media and identifying their role in human life. Notably, they are a form of electronic communication in which individuals build online forums to exchange information, viewpoints, personal messages, and other material. This type of personal interaction has been supported primarily by the increased Internet penetration worldwide.

Increased Access to Social Media

With the development of online technologies, social media platforms have gained users globally. As a result, it seems that humans are more interconnected than ever, whether they are live-tweeting wedding showers or creating Facebook pages for their animals. Around 73% of internet adults currently use certain social media sites (Auxier and Anderson 17). Some of the most common are Facebook, which recently was rebranded as Meta, YouTube video platform, Instagram, and TikTok. Such platforms have different user experiences that can affect the users differently. The younger those are, the more vulnerable they apparently are to emotional distress; hence a stronger attachment to the source of emotions, in the given case, the social media site.

Facebook as the Leading Social Network

Facebook doubtlessly is the dominant social media platform, for which reason the paper focuses on it. This resource is the market leader, with over 71% of internet adults as users, who are outstandingly active and engaged (McKibben and Logan-McKibben 7; Quinn 1351). Specifically, traffic monitoring systems show that more than a third of those who have Facebook accounts log in daily, and slightly above a quarter do that many times a day (Fu et al. 117). This constant consumption of social media may be a consequence of the growing popularity of such sites on mobile devices that have simplified and quickened surfing the Internet considerably.

The above trends justify the growing interest in Facebook’s impact on the psychological stability of its users. It is worth noting that, although anybody may create accounts on social media, teenagers are the most frequent visitors of such platforms. Thus, Reer et al. discovered that 84 percent of 18-29-year-olds use Facebook, which share is the biggest among various age groups (781). Additionally, they are the fastest rising category, judging by the increase from no more than 9% in 2004 (Reer et al. 781). Given the rising significance of social media in young community relationships, it is vital to understand how their usage may affect mental well-being.

Reasons for Using Social Media

As said above, although all age groups utilize social media, youngsters doubtlessly prevail, which actually is quite natural, considering the benefits. The recent neuropsychological study notably indicates that possessing an active account engages the brain’s intrinsic reward system, similar to intense main pleasures such as food and sex (Chou et al. 2417). More specifically, people use Facebook for two fundamental reasons: the desire for belonging and for self-presentation. A Facebook page of an individual contributes to his or her self-worth and sense of self-integrity. This effect can be so powerful that some show to alter the dopamine levels in the brain, as elaborated in the psychological concerns later in this paper (Chou et al. 2418). The need for socialization, meanwhile, is stronger in adolescents and youngsters than in older people, due to which the above proportion is actual.

Mental Health Disorders

Several investigations and speculations have described adverse effects of social media usage, such as increased melancholy, anxiety, obsessive behavior, loneliness, and narcissism. Scholars argue that the growing popularity of networking sites with young individuals raises worries about these potentially harmful consequences (Zhao and Zhang 273). One of the possible solutions is to control the access timeframe on social media platforms. The urgency of such an intervention could be justified with the insights that sociologists, psychologists, brain physiologists, and philosophers have put across in terms of the impact of unhealthy exposure to social media.

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How Social Networks Can Affect Self-Esteem

Sociologists recognize that lifestyles are evolving worldwide; one of the most apparent trends is the spread of screen-based devices. For instance, studies have shown that in lower-income nations, particularly in emerging countries such as Sub-Saharan Africa (Kolhar et al. 2217). In one respect, such a tendency marks the increase in the quality of life and, subsequently, may qualify as positive. On the contrary, gadgets simplify taking pictures and writing posts, which enables creating fake identities to seem to be wealthier or happier than the individual actually is. This, in turn, may harm the self-esteem of those who visit the page, making them compare themselves with its owner. Meanwhile, youngsters are impressible and readily affected, for which reason they may begin to underestimate themselves.

It would not be reasonable, however, to proclaim that a direct causal relationship exists between using social media and poor self-esteem. Rather, the former may aggravate the existing factors that affect the sense of self-worth, such as social anxiety or envy (Jiang and Ngien 1, 8). In addition, it is possible to assume that the quality of online interactions with other people plays a more considerable role in mental wellness than social media presence in general does (Zhao and Zhang 273). Simply stated, a person who has no communicative issues is not as probable to suffer from low self-esteem in comparison with someone who has difficulty in healthy relationships.

Depression and Social Media

In addition to lower self-worth, overuse of media platforms apparently is associated with a higher probability of depression. Thus, Auxier and Anderson insist on the correlation between the time that school students spent on Facebook and the frequency of depressive disorders in them (21). Zhao and Zhang support these findings, stating that people who spend more time online and maintain their Facebook photos have a higher prevalence of clinical symptoms of major depression (273). The reason is guessable from the outcomes of the survey of university students in the United States; according to them, greater Facebook use is connected with increased loneliness (Zhao and Zhang 273). Presumably, the thought that the contacts, which can be quite numerous, are virtual causes despair and demotivates people from real-life communication, causing apathy that can develop into depression in a certain period.

To summarize, it is apparent through the lens of sociology that excessive use of social media is associated with worse mental health. Regrettably, young people, who are the most active visitors of networking sites, are disproportionately more likely to acquire psychical issues such as depression. In addition, the self-esteem of individuals who have social anxiety or similar problems, which actually are quite common in youngsters, may become lower because they tend to compare themselves to others.

Social Media and Mental Health from a Psychological Perspective

From the viewpoint of psychology, the issue under review is debatable as well. In one respect, it considers the above studies that demonstrate the link between the excessively intensive use of social networking sites and mental health difficulties (Zhao and Zhang 273). Other research, meanwhile, indicates no cause-and-effect relationship between social media activity and depression (Puukko et al. 5921). In general, while some specialists associate the ever-growing presence in social media with the apparent increase in depressive symptoms in adolescents, others deny the existence of the link.

The majority of psychologists and behavioral scientists have experience in treating excessive networking site usage as an addiction. For instance, Zhao and Zhang discovered a 70% rise in self-reported depression symptoms among social media users (271). Kohlar et al. also revealed a strong association between depression and the time that youngsters spent on Facebook (2217). The latter not necessarily causes the former, however, as a correlation not always means a causal relationship. Thus, Puukko et al. assume an opposite variant, where people with clinical depression are more inclined to escapism, in particular, with the help of social networks (5921). This is quite probable, considering that such websites encourage their users to wear masks that embody fun and excitement but do not reveal much about their struggles in everyday life.

It is worth specifying that the degree of vulnerability to the possible negative influence of social media has been found to vary between genders. Notably, the researchers examined the relationship between networking site use and mental health according to gender, which experiment revealed that females are more dependent than males (Kolhar et al. 2217). Nevertheless, the risk of mental health associated with excessive social media activity is an issue of concern in both genders.

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The Theory of Developmental Tasks and Emerging Adulthood

Several perspectives exist on the reasons for which mental health concerns often hamper early adulthood. Thus, according to the developmental task theory, society generates a set of graded expectations that change together with an individual’s age and determine his or her performance (Mayseless and Keren 64). Activities in growth reflect both human progress and the ideals of the surrounding culture. For instance, a teenager is expected to excel academically and create great friendships; in adulthood, developmental responsibilities include romantic relationships, families, meaningful professions, and participation in political life (Zhao and Zhang 273). Historically, the typical trend was for a person to go directly from adolescence to adulthood. Emerging adulthood is challenging since an individual in this transitional stage has already acquired the responsibilities associated with maturation but retains certain characteristics of adolescence.

Many countries seek to help their maturing residents with prolonged periods of schooling, experimental employment, and travel. The purpose actually lies in postponing the onset of typical adult duties such as marriage and family (Orben et al. 640). In fact, however, people approaching adulthood face more developmental roadblocks than they have ever experienced and more than their careers have ever experienced. For instance, an individual may maintain teenage activities such as academic performance, psychological tasks such as growing autonomy from parents, and adult tasks such as job search, romantic relationship building, family formation, and civic participation.

People in that phase of life become especially vulnerable to the sense of approval that social media can provide. According to Kohlar et al., such characteristics as interpersonal trust and family functioning may have a bigger impact on depressive symptoms than social media usage frequency (2218). In case these are not appropriate, an individual is likely to compensate for that by virtual means. Therefore, the assumption that depression causes overuse of social media apparently is closer to reality than its equivalent with inverted cause and effect.

Brain Physiology during Adolescence

It is crucial to recognize that the prevalence of illnesses that occur throughout adolescence is associated with brain development. The neurobiological alterations in the structure and functions of the brain may result in difficulties with emotional and social control in adolescents (Odgers and Jensen 346). Those do not finish, however, when a person reaches the age of 18; rather, significant improvements in executive function, planning, and decision-making capacity continue into the thirties. While adolescence is often a well-structured setting, young people are allowed to fend for themselves at a very malleable stage of their life. However, the emergence of social media seems to have increased the desire for social approval even at such early phases of life.

In most of the investigations, anxiety and sadness were the most frequently evaluated outcomes indicating the victims’ psychological instability. The significant risk variables for both were time spent maintaining the account and social media addiction, which actually are closely intertwined (Orben et al. 639). Thus, anxiety in children frequently is connected to fear of loss, which motivates them to check all their friends’ texts and communications regularly. These reactions could be best defined from the philosophers’ viewpoints to contextualize better the rising concerns over suicidal ideas among social media addicts.

Philosophers’ Perspective

There is mounting evidence that the Internet and social media might have a detrimental effect in terms of suicidal thoughts and even behavior. Notably, the studies have revealed that individual aspects include the disorienting cognitive effect of severe distress and sadness, which makes the future look bleaker than it is really (O’Reilly et al. 101). Philosophers explored the question of reality and existence from the perceptive of the depressed, noting that such individuals tend to have a distorted perception of existence. Social media, in turn, can trigger such cases by replacing reality with an illusion, which aggravates the unhealthy state.


Considering all of the above, it is highly desirable that the possible influence of social media overuse on the psyche of youngsters, including its effect on suicidal conduct, is addressed with urgency. The philosophical perspective on the effect of the Internet and, in particular, social networking sites on suicidal behavior indicates that this technology may bear threats to the public. Since end-users mainly generate and manage social media, they, subsequently, should be the participants of the initiatives that aim at monitoring and prevention. To aid in implementing such user-driven strategies, all social media platforms may provide easy mechanisms to report hazardous websites and other users’ behaviors that seem inadequate.

Similarly, public promotion of direct and quick access to support through social media sites should be the focus. Public health initiatives that use the Internet and social media to increase awareness about the problem in schools, universities, and other settings may also be effective. Those responsible for suicide prevention and public health outreach programs should also be aware of the current social media trends and user preferences, as well as significant legal considerations. Finally, proactively using social media to raise public awareness and education about mental health concerns is a rational contemporary public health strategy that can save lives. Suicide prevention social networking sites may foster social connections between peers who have had similar experiences and raise knowledge of preventative programs, crisis helplines, and other support and educational resources.

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In general, it is critical to remember that the Internet is less controlled than traditional types of media. When radio, television, and newspapers broadcast or print content of dubious purpose or integrity, they may be examined by regulators or even lose ratings as a result. However, the creation and transmission of information through the Internet and social media are decentralized and continually being modified and updated by end-users (Ceccato and Petersson 17). Thus, the Internet is actually an open gateway with few limits on the material. Ultimately, the management of Internet material concerns First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and expression. Limits on Internet material may offer a slippery-slope issue that might lead to more restrictions on these rights.


Although social media can hardly cause depression or suicidal thoughts in a psychologically stable individual, they may aggravate the existing mental health issues. The effective solution is to control the Internet better than in the current stage, for instance, by reporting inappropriate activities. Regarding each particular individual, it is necessary to have emotional attachments in real life to avoid a social media addiction and worsening of the state. It is also necessary to consider that females are more vulnerable to the possible negative influence of networking sites in comparison with males and, consequently, may need closer supervision.

Further study is required to determine the breadth and magnitude of social media’s negative and positive effects on the human psyche more precisely. An especially important issue to investigate within this discourse is the efficacy of suicide prevention initiatives based on social networking sites. Additionally, more research on the groups of people who may be particularly susceptible to suicide-promoting impacts would be relevant as well since this is critical in terms of public health. An emphasis on teenagers and young adults makes sense, considering that the given age groups are the most active users of social media.

Works Cited

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Berryman, Chloe, Christopher J. Ferguson, and Charles Nagy. “Social media use and mental health among young adults.” Psychiatric Quarterly 89.2 (2018): 307-314.

Chou, Wen-Ying Sylvia, April Oh, and William MP Klein. “Addressing health-related misinformation on social media.” Jama 320.23 (2018): 2417-2418.

Ceccato, Vania, and Robin Petersson. “Social Media and Emergency Services: Information Sharing about Cases of Missing Persons in Rural Sweden.” Annals of the American Association of Geographers (2021): 1-20.

Fu, Shaoxiong, Hongxiu Li, and Yong Liu. “Why discontinue Facebook usage? An empirical investigation based on a push-pull–mooring framework.” Industrial Management & Data Systems (2021).

Jiang, Shaohai, and Annabel Ngien. “The effects of Instagram use, social comparison, and self-esteem on social anxiety: A survey study in Singapore.” Social Media + Society 6.2, 205630512091248.

Kolhar, Manjur, Raisa Nazir Ahmed Kazi, and Abdalla Alameen. “Effect of social media use on learning, social interactions, and sleep duration among university students.” Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences 28.4 (2021): 2216-2222.

Mayselles, Ofra, and Einat Keren. “Finding a meaningful life as a developmental task in emerging adulthood: The domains of love and work across cultures.” Emerging Adulthood 2.1 (2013): 63-73.

McKibben, William B., and Sandra Logan-McKibben. “A Content Analysis of Counseling Organizations’ Social Media Usage.” Journal of Technology in Counselor Education and Supervision 1.1 (2021): 1.

Odgers, Candice L., and Michaeline R. Jensen. “Annual Research Review: Adolescent mental health in the digital age: facts, fears, and future directions.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 61.3 (2020): 336-348.

Orben, Amy, Livia Tomova, and Sarah-Jayne Blakemore. “The effects of social deprivation on adolescent development and mental health.” The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health 4.8 (2020): 634-640.

O’Reilly, Michelle, Diane Levine, and Effie Law. “Applying a ‘digital ethics of care philosophy to understand adolescents’ sense of responsibility on social media.” Pastoral Care in Education 39.2 (2021): 91-107.

Puukko, Kati, et al. “Social media use and depressive symptoms – A longitudinal study from early to late adolescence.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 17 (2020): 5921-5939.

Quinn, Kelly. “Social media and social wellbeing in later life.” Ageing & Society 41.6 (2021): 1349-1370.

Reer Felix, Ruth Festl, and Thorsten Quandt. “Investigating problematic social media and game use in a nationally representative sample of adolescents and younger adults.” Behaviour & Information Technology 40.8 (2021): 776-789.

Zhao, Yuehua, and Jin Zhang. “Consumer health information seeking in social media: a literature review.” Health Information & Libraries Journal 34.4 (2017): 268-283.

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