2016 is now officially in the rearview mirror and our New Year resolutions have taken full effect. While change seems to be on the horizon for many, the culture we live in, with its technological advancements, is still very much the same.
We have been a technologically driven society for many, many years. It’s no surprise that we continue to see incredible advancements that allow us to interweave our physical lives with the digital. Although, I’m very disappointed that we haven’t normalized flying cars, hoverboards, and self-strapping shoes. Hopefully, you understand that reference! #greatscott!
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc…are all major corporations that fall underneath the same umbrella: social media. These sites, among many others, are the primary facets in which the world keeps in touch with each other.
This reality, before 2005, was almost unheard of and now 12 years later, we stand looking at the world more connected than ever.
Mentalhealth.net reports that 95% of the world’s teenagers (ages 13-17) are connected to social media. The website also reports that as of 2005, only 5% of the world’s teenagers were connected via social media.
That’s a little over ten years with a 90% increase in usage. Suffice it to say, those responsible for creating and maintaining these sites struck a nerve with the up-and-coming generation.
But what good is it doing?
This is a question that many researchers, mental health advocates, and physicians have asked. The pertinent question of whether or not social media is benefitting the human population remains one with muddled answers.
Half believe that social media has its benefits while the other reject it as harmful and disassociative in nature. It seems that the answer is subjective, but how?
Science Daily reported that those who used “seven to 11 social media platforms had more than three times the risk of depression and anxiety than their peers who use zero to two platforms, even after adjusting for the total time spent on social media overall.”¹
Mentalhealth.net supplements that information by saying that the average user spends “23% of their time online on social media” and “8.3 hours a month on the (social media) site.”²
What exactly are teens, and adults alike, doing during their visit online? I’m sure that I don’t have to spend too much time answering that question because we all know what it is. We’re connecting!
Whether through messenger on Facebook, the newsfeed of Instagram, or the reader of WordPress, social media was built on the premise of global connection. It gives us beautiful ways to interact with individuals that may be too far aware for face-to-face interaction. We could potentially become acquainted with those we may never have met outside of the internet, as well.
Through online connection, sites like Facebook help reduce depression and anxiety by giving the individual social interaction.
For those suffering from mental disorders, face-to-face contact can sometimes be difficult, if not impossible. For example, Autistic individuals are rarely able to go outside of their normal bounds and find it hard to maintain friendships outside of the social media sphere because of their debilitating disease.
Facebook, and sites related to it, also host a myriad of ways to unite large groups of people under one cause. This association with people who believe the same ideologies or can relate to different circumstances can vastly improve one’s satisfaction in life.
In these cases, the use of social media is critical in maintaining strong mental and social health. But what about the opposing side?
Overuse of networking websites has scientifically increased the risks of experiencing loneliness, social anxiety, and an inept ability to relate in social settings. Those using a vast number of social outlets can also become addicted to the culture of online interactions.
Seeking validation from the amount of “likes”, comments, or “retweets” can lead to harmful mental developments.
For instance, a consistent lack of “likes” on a status could lead to discouragement, self-image issues, as well as a constant state of comparing oneself to someone who may receive more attention on the web. While this may sound trivial to you and I, during the formative years of a child and teen, this persistent frustration of not “measuring up” can be disastrous.
Cyber bullying is also becoming more and more prevalent. Instances of cyber bullying can be difficult to locate or trace as content on the web could be deleted within an instant. The damage it may cause to someone, however, cannot be undone. This is an issue we plan to cover more of in the coming weeks.
It seems that the question being posed today is one that can only be answered by the individual and how they use the specific websites.
Knowing the statistics presented here and your own experience with social media, what do you think?
Do you think social media is helpful or do you believe that it is too harmful? Do you regulate yourself to a certain amount of hours on the web or are you a “free-scroller?”
Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D., director of CRMTH and assistant vice chancellor for health and society in Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences says that “More research will be needed to tease that (the benefits and drawbacks) apart.”¹
It seems that Dr. Primack is taking a subjective approach to the matter and I believe I’m going to have to as well. Leave us your thoughts in the comments!
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¹”Multi-social millennials more likely depressed than social(media)ly conservative peers.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, n.d. Web. 01 Jan. 2017. <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161220175543.htm>.
²Cottle, Julia. “Facebook And Mental Health: Is Social Media Hurting Or Helping?” Mental Help Facebook and Mental Health Is Social Media Hurting or Helping Comments. N.p., 15 Mar. 2016. Web. 01 Jan. 2017. <https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/facebook-and-mental-health-is-social-media-hurting-or-helping/>.