Social Media’s Effects on Mental Health

Social Media's effect on Mental Health | Source: PLCC

To survive at IMSA – and in the modern-day world – it’s all but a requirement to have some form of social media. Platforms offer easy communication and allow students to connect and share information. 90% of teens aged 13-17 have used social media at some point, and 75% of teens have an active social media account. Though these platforms can be used to help make students’ daily lives easier, they can also lead to large effects on mental health.

Advantages of Social Media on Mental Health

  • Communication: Social media allows everyone to communicate easily and quickly. In today’s world, it’s a necessity to be able to contact people in ways that aren’t just face-to-face. Distance becomes inconsequential with social media, giving people the ability to connect with others in tough times. This is especially true at IMSA, where many students have a large distance between themselves and their hometown and family. Homesickness is something that a lot of IMSA students have to deal with, and social media can help students effectively stay in touch with those who are too far away for any other form of communication.
  • Self-Expression: A lot of people deal with their issues regarding mental health by expressing themselves with creative outlets. Social media platforms give people the opportunity to share their self-expression healthily, creating a sense of accomplishment and allowing them to meet others who have similar outlets. This contributes to improved mental well-being and creates community.
  • Mental Health Resources & Awareness: Social media gives everyone the ability to access mental health resources much easier than in the past. Along with this, with access to the internet, awareness about mental health has increased. There’s more accessibility to information about mental health as well as ways to improve it than ever before. Mental health professionals and organizations have taken to using platforms for sharing resources and guidance, and with social media, average students can share their struggles with mental health and help others feel less alone.

After COVID, social media has become a haven for many students to meet like-minded peers and make connections that they otherwise would not have been able to. At IMSA, social media is a necessity for a variety of reasons, and it helps students go about their day easier. But, along with these positive effects, there are many downsides to social media.

Disadvantages of Social Media on Mental Health

  • Comparison (& Self-Esteem): With the ability to see what others are doing with their lives comes comparison and issues with self-esteem. Constant exposure to curated posts by others can lead to unrealistic standards and cause people to feel like they aren’t living up to what others are doing. This leads to feelings of inadequacy and lowers self-esteem, which, in severe cases, can lead to depression.
  • FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): Social media creates the idea of others having exciting experiences while the user feels like they’re missing out. This can lead to loneliness and anxiety, and this especially applies at IMSA. Here, students who live far away from their homes can see posts of those they miss on social media, causing them to feel left out and alone.
  • Lack of Sleep: Excessive social media use can affect sleep schedules, both due to the blue light emitted by electronic devices and the addictive nature of using social media right before bed. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that 93% of Gen Z lost sleep because they stayed up “past their bedtime” to view social media. Lack of sleep can lead to increased stress, heightened anxiety, and a higher susceptibility to depression. At IMSA, it’s a well-known fact that many students have sleep schedules that aren’t the healthiest, and though academics are a large part of this, social media is also a factor.

Social media is a part of people’s daily lives that’s here to stay. Getting rid of all social media could help reduce some of the disadvantages mentioned, but in the end, it’s a necessity. While platforms offer easy communication, the ability to self-express, and mental health resources, they also can lead to self-esteem issues, a fear of missing out, and an impacted sleep schedule. To use social media healthily, users need to manage their time and consumption by cultivating an online atmosphere that will reduce the disadvantages as much as possible. At IMSA, a lot of these negative effects are heightened because of the circumstances that this school creates. The best way to use social media is to make it what’s best for you and reduce anything that’s negatively impacting your mental health.

About the Author

Mason Pattanaik
Mason Pattanaik is currently a sophomore at IMSA and a staff writer for The Acronym.

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