Social media is currently a vital component of enhancing communication amongst friends and families through the sharing of personal content. The use of social media platforms has gone a notch higher, especially among young adults who are striving to develop their identities, for self-promotion, as well as establishing their social norms. Currently, many people utilize the Internet thanks to the discovery of the World Wide Web in the late 1990s. They use devices such as smartphones and computers to share information on the Internet despite their different geographical location and time. The sharing of information and ideas through the Internet or mobile platforms is facilitated by social media. In other words, social media requires applications that are supported by the Internet to allow the formation and communication of content that is generated by the users. A whopping 90 percent of the American young adults utilize social media, and most of the users access the sites more than once every day. Most of the people who access the Internet using personal computers spend 20% of their online time on accessing social media sites while those who use phones utilize 30% (Sidani et al. 325). This paper examines the current findings regarding the relationship between social media and mental disorders. Social media has been linked to the development of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. I support the research suggesting the existence of a relationship between the increase of mental disorders and social media. People should minimize the amount of time they spend on social media to avoid mental health risks.
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Impact on Mental Health
Various studies suggest that excessive use of social media may lead to symptoms of mental disorders such as depression and addiction. While a section of the related studies shows that some social media activities may make their users, particularly children and adolescents prone to adverse cognitive conditions, others suggest that social media activities have a positive impact on the users through boosting their self-esteem (Best et al. 28). A study by Alfie Lloyd carried out at the University of Cambridge considers social media as an occurrence and then explains various methods of classifying distinct features of social media for research purposes (340-346). The study shows that social media has positive and negative influences on the mental health of young people from 14 to 35 years. The researchers recommend changes to be made to protect the young kids and adolescents from the negative impacts of social media such as Internet addiction and low self-esteem without interfering with the positive aspects like sharing of experiences by the sick, ethnic minorities, among other minority groups. Moreover, the research by Pantic reviews the most recent findings concerning the assumptions on the relationship between social networking sites and issues related to mental health, for instance, depressive symptoms, a variation of self-esteem, as well as Internet addiction (652-657). According to the study, people who access social media constantly are likely to have low self-esteem when they see their peers as higher achievers as compared to themselves. Poor self-esteem makes such users vulnerable to depressive symptoms. Social media users have also been found to possibly develop Internet addiction and experience cyberbullying, increasing their susceptibility to depression.
The study by Rohilla and Kumar analyses the existing literature to identify the relationship between the use of social media and issues related to mental health among young adults (142-149). The study describes how the devices that social media users utilize to access their preferred sites emit harmful artificial blue light, its impact on their sleeping cycles, and the association of sleep-related issues with depression. Extreme sleep disruptions may attract negative thoughts and increase one’s emotional vulnerability. Loneliness, narcissism, and uncontrollable behaviors are also associated with mental health issues, which may develop as a result of extremely much exposure to social media. For instance, an adolescent may develop constant psychological disturbances hence depressive symptoms as a result of harassment, threats, or embarrassment by other social media users.
Although there is a perception that social media contributes to the development and escalation of symptoms of depression, there is also an assumption that particular traits of online behaviors may be vital in the detection and evaluation of depression. Social media platforms like Facebook can be paramount tools for the assessment of symptoms of depression amongst people who use the sites. In a study conducted in the United States by Sidani et al. (researchers in the school of medicine, University of Pittsburgh), it was found out that there is a high likelihood that a depressed individual will utilize Facebook features majorly containing depression-related information (326). The researchers created a special application which they called Emotion Diary for the evaluation of depression symptoms among Facebook users. They concluded that particular behavioral traits associated with depression of the people who use social media could be quantified and a high depression predictive value for prospective assessment may be derived from the quantification. Additionally, Facebook users suffering from depression may demonstrate other attributes, for instance, a few friends and location tags. These characteristics can also be vital predictive factors for potential future depression tests since they are measurable.
Social Media and Increase of Mental Disorders
Envious Feeling and Internet Addiction
Various studies have associated the use of social media with reduced subjective mood, life contentment, and comfort. The studies attribute too much loneliness and decreased people bonding with the passive use of social media content in place of face-to-face communication. This is perhaps due to the envious feelings about other people and the unfounded belief that they are more successful and happier in their lives than the social media user. As a result, the envious person may feel inferior and depressed with time (Pantic 653). Seeing other people as leading a happier life and being more successful is not a cause of depression. Nevertheless, people experiencing conditions that make them prone to depression and other psychiatric disorders may have their mental health negatively affected by the perceptions that they are leading worse lives than their peers. Additionally, the majority of excessive social media users feel that they have wasted much of their time on low-importance activities, and this feeling can hurt their moods. Furthermore, internet addiction, a psychiatric disorder with a close relationship with depression, has become a common condition among the youth as a result of too much use of social media (Lloyd 345). The development and progress of depression among social media users can also occur as a result of cyber-bullying which in turn increases depression symptoms.
Loneliness, Narcissism, Depression, and Uncontrollable Behaviors
Various studies indicate a relationship between the use of social media and undesirable results, for instance, high levels of loneliness, narcissism, depression, and uncontrollable behaviors. Too much social media utilization by young adults leads to an increase of the negative impacts. In an effort of establishing the relationship between Internet application, specifically the utilization of social media, and mental disorders, the HomeNet project offered computer access to 93 families with no prior internet usage and then monitored their mental health for several years (Rohilla and Kumar 144). Following one year of using the Internet, the study established that too much utilization of the Internet, particularly social media, was linked to aggravating indications of depression and solitude.
In another study conducted to investigate the use of Facebook among college students, it was found out that a single or multiple variables regarding the use of Facebook predicted most of the mental conditions such as bipolar mania, antisocial personality disorder, depression, narcissism, as well as compulsive behavior. These findings were consistent with the previous study, which involved the HomeNet project. However, in their systematic review of research published between January 2003 and April 2013, Best et al. (34) show that more Facebook activity is associated with a decreased rate of depression for individuals experiencing high narcissism levels. Nevertheless, the low depression levels cannot be termed as a positive impact of social media on an individual’s mental health since many studies indicate that narcissism is aggravated by the use of social networking sites (Rohilla and Kumar 145). For instance, in one study, high narcissism scores were associated with an increased amount of time spent on Facebook and the augmented site visit frequency.
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Research establishes that learners who spend much of their time in social media have a lower sense of worth as compared to the ones who use lesser time on the platforms. In turn, low self-esteem makes an individual vulnerable to depressive mental disorders or worsens the conditions. It was also found out that students with many friends on Facebook had few live interactions with their college mates and were likely to experience high levels of loneliness. Ultimately, social media exacerbates mental disorders and, therefore, should have a warning sign or some modification. In their study concerning Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram use, Best et al. found that there was a remarkable relationship between the use of social media and depression among young American adults (29). Although some of the former studies had found no relationship or non-uniform results, the findings of the research conducted by Best et al. (28) echoed previous research, which indicated a relationship between the utilization of social media and depressive symptoms. This relationship is perhaps due to the tendency of people with depression utilizing more time on social media. For instance, a person with depression may strive to validate him or herself through social media interactions (Lloyd 344). As a result, the person may experience constant thoughts and guilt triggered by the use of social media and is prompted to carry on with the cycle because of low self-efficacy, as well as a negative attitude towards him/herself (Lloyd 344). Attributable to high social media use and the likelihood of interaction in a controlled environment, a person with depression and anhedonia may prefer online socialization to offline interrelations. Besides, people with excessive exposure to social media usually develop high depression levels.
A section of research associates social media with uncontrollable conducts and anxiousness. According to the findings of recent studies, approximately 45 percent of the adults in Britain experience worry and discomfort when they are unable to access their preferred social networking sites. Younger generations were found to experience higher levels of anxiety than adults when they failed to access their social networks and text messages. Due to this regular connectivity of people to social media, researchers and scientists have come up with “phantom vibration syndrome”, a term referring to the perceived cellphone vibration (Rohilla and Kumar 146). Besides, people who are preoccupied with social media use also spend most of their time seated and have little time for physical exercises. As a result, they become vulnerable to sedentary behaviors, the activities that mainly include sitting or lying. These behaviors have been associated with physical health issues such as obesity, heart diseases, and high blood pressure. Although the information on the impacts of sedentary behavior on mental health is minimal, one study shows that depressive and anxiety disorders can be treated and prevented by reducing such habits and extreme sleep disruptions may attract negative thoughts and increase one’s emotional vulnerability. The research also shows that people with sedentary behaviors are likely to develop physical health issues such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure since they have minimal physical activity. These physical illnesses may make such people experience chronic pain and emotional stress, making them prone to the development of depression and anxiety.
The mobile devices such as computers and smartphones utilized for the access of social media sites interrupt the natural sleep cycles of the users. The screens of these devices release high amounts of artificial blue light. Rohilla and Kumar affirm that “this artificial light disrupts healthy sleep cycles” (145). When a person is exposed to the artificial light at night, it interferes with a sleepy chemical of the brain and makes his/her body experience disrupted circadian rhythm. The overuse of social media hinders the user from having sufficient sleep and may prevent him or her from feeling sleepy by any means. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 9 hours of sleep to the grownups, but this may not be achieved by people who spend most of their time on social media as a result of sleep interference by the harmful artificial blue light. Studies indicate that most of the time, individuals who experience anxiety sleep deeply for fewer hours than those who do not suffer from the condition. Insomnia is believed to have a hand in the development of depression. Lack of sleep has been associated with numerous mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.
There is a wide pool of research linking the use of social media with increased cases of depression. People who constantly use social media sites are likely to develop constant negative thoughts as a result of cyberbullying, feeling inferior when they compare themselves with their peers, or blue light emitted by the social media devices that they use. These effects offer sufficient ground to conclude that the use of social media is correlated with an increase of mental disorders and thus its regulation is recommendable.
Best, Paul, et al. “Online Communication, Social Media and Adolescent Wellbeing: A Systematic Narrative Review.” Children and Youth Services Review, vol. 41, no. 1, 2014, pp. 27-36.
Lloyd, Alfie “Social Media, Help or Hindrance: What Role Does Social Media Play in Young People’s Mental Health?” Psychiatria Danubina, vol. 26, no. 1, 2014, pp. 340-346.
Pantic, Igor. “Online Social Networking and Mental Health.” Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, vol. 17, no. 10, 2014, pp. 652-657.
Rohilla, Singh, and Krishan Kumar. “Impact of Social Media on Mental Health.” International Journal of Education, vol. 5, no. 1, 2015, pp. 142-149.
Sidani, Jaime, et al. “Association between Social Media Use and Depression among US Young Adults.” Depression and Anxiety, vol. 33, no. 4, 2016, pp. 323-331.