How does social media affect our mental health?

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Social media has opened up new places for students to share their thoughts in the digital age, having both beneficial and detrimental consequences regarding mental health. Anything we look at for so many hours has to have some effect on us, whether we like it or not. 

 

Senior Adrianne Lambert, who admittedly spends 6-7 hours on her phone daily, reveals that social media distracts her when she needs to be productive. “Let’s say I’m doing AP Biology or AP Statistics homework. When I try to take a quick 5 minute break, it turns into an hour or so.” 

 

Similarly, self-proclaimed senior phone addict Anabella Decker says, “I get a lot of notifications from people on Snapchat. I definitely get distracted if I have my phone on me when I’m doing homework than if I just sat down and cranked it out.” Social media can prevent students from giving their full attention to a certain assignment, causing them to wait until the last minute to complete it. Predictably, this tends to cause anxiety among the youth, students specifically. 

 

Of course, social media is known to be linked to depression and self-esteem issues, as well. For example, the Here to Help Foundation claims that the images we see in the popular media influence body image, and sometimes impede the development of a healthy body. The images tend to be repetitive and tend to consistently feature slender, attractive models. This type of media exposure can influence body image over time by sending a message about what it means to have an ideal body shape, size, and weight. It places pressure on individuals to attain the thin, attractive ideal depicted in the media. Lambert shares, “I think negatively of my body all the time because I see all these celebrities with amazing bodies. They pay for nutritionists and personal trainers to keep them in shape. But what can I do other than just eating better and going to the gym?”

 

 Knowing that many posts portray unrealistic goals, Decker claims, “Posts don’t show the struggles of getting to a certain point. Like, when people show a picture of being overweight and then being super skinny, none of the in-between is being shown.” It is common for people to begin to measure themselves against these unrealistic ideals and determine that they have come up short. 

Body dissatisfaction, may result when an individual feels a strong pull to live up to this standard, or internalized this standard of beauty and body image. These types of concerns tend to cause depression and low self-esteem.

 

What is the best way to cope with the negative effects of social media? It’s simple: cut down your phone usage. Decker shares, “The best way to manage [social media] would be not to follow the influencers that make you feel bad about yourself because it’s constantly going to pop up on your feed.” Things like notifications and calls are distracting and may cause you to pick up your phone more times than necessary. You don’t have to be interrupted by every “like” that your latest Instagram picture receives or by the message that your favorite Youtuber just released a new episode. Keep the apps that you want to encourage yourself to use — like those for reading or learning a new language — front and center, but banish anything that you want to limit your time (Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter).