For most of us, it feels like social media has been around for ages, but it is still a relatively new experience in relation to the human psyche.
With social media platforms becoming more a part of people’s lives every year, and with each new generation, it is important that we comprehend the real impact that each social platform has on our mental health.
A new report, published by the Royal Society for public health in the UK looked at the effects of social media on the mental health of younger people.
It surveyed 1500 people aged between 14 and 24, and their conclusions offered a little bit of insight into how varying social media sites impact a variety of different issues related to mental health, including sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety, and body image.
Which is the Worst Social Media for Mental Health?
Instagram had the worst effect on the mental health of younger people.
The visual social media app negatively impacts sleep and body image, increases the chances of experiencing bullying, and the fear of missing out, and results in emotions related to depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
The positive effects of Instagram include community building, self-expression, and emotional support.
When it comes to Facebook, it had similar adverse effects to Instagram when it comes to things like body image, the fear of missing out, bullying, depression, loneliness, and anxiety.
Facebook also had a negative impact on sleep. Facebook also had positive effects, including community building and emotional support.
Interestingly, the one social media platform that stood out from the rest as far as having a positive effect on mental health was YouTube.
The platform known for video streaming scored high in categories like community building, awareness, and self-expression.
YouTube also is the only social network where depression, loneliness, anxiety lessened the more it was used. There are a lot of YouTubers out there that actively try to form an online community where the people that enjoy their content can support one another.
The worst negative impact of YouTube is the impact that it has on sleep.
Depression and Anxiety
When it comes to younger people, the rates of depression and anxiety have skyrocketed over the last quarter-century, increasing by an astonishing 70%.
Researchers believe that social media has played a big part in this. People that use social media a lot have reported poor mental health, including symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Social media feeds feelings of anxiety and inadequacy. This kind of level of anxiety can make it hard for young people to go outside of their own house, do really well at their job, or even concentrate on what they are studying.
According to the study, using social media for more than two hours a day has been closely associated with increased levels of psychological distress, poor mental health, and suicidal thoughts.
Researchers believe that this depression-like effect comes from the pressure of trying to keep up with an unrealistic expectation of reality, as well as peer pressure online that might exacerbate existing conditions.
People all too easily compare the mundane aspects of their lives with the small snippets of other people’s lives that they are viewing online.
All social networks have shown that they have a negative impact on the body image of the user, but when it comes to Instagram, it’s definitely the worst, with body image issues are particularly prevalent.
Instagram is used mostly by females, and it also targets a younger age bracket. 90% of people on Instagram are under 35 years old.
When people upload photos to Instagram, a lot of the time they have been filtered and photoshopped, which means that they are unrealistic when it comes to what the person really looks like.
Back not that long ago, people worried about body image expectations that were created by fashion magazines, but now, Instagram offers millions of new images an hour for young girls to compare themselves to, which is why it is no wonder that girls are showing an increased desire to alter how they look after spending time on Instagram or Facebook.
Another troubling piece of information is the fact that social media appears to have caused an increase in cosmetic surgery among young people, who are hoping to look better in their photos.
Sleep can be linked directly to mental health. Mental health and sleep are interconnected, which means that if you have poor mental health, this can result in poor sleep, and it can be the other way round as well.
Using social media has a negative impact on both how much people sleep, and the quality of the sleep that they get. If you are browsing social networks at night, the LED light on your phone interferes with your brain’s ability to naturally release sleep hormones.
Also, one in five people say that they wake up in the middle of the night to check their phone for messages on social media, which means that they are more likely to be tired the next day at school.
Social Media Can Offer Support for Mental Health
One of the advantages of social media is that it can offer young people a source of emotional support. Social networks do have valuable mental health information and let young people who might be suffering from mental health issues the chance to feel as if they aren’t alone.
There is no doubt that social media use can be linked inherently to mental health, with Instagram being the worst social network for mental health overall.
This is particularly true for younger people, who tend to use social media a lot, and whose brains are still developing in terms of emotional and social health.
Social media is capable of being used as a tool for good, but the challenge is to make sure that social media companies are doing everything they can to make these platforms a safe environment, and for younger people to be equipped with the right skills to be able to navigate social media sites and know where to seek help when they need it.