There are 53 million active social media users in the UK, which is 77.9% of the UK population.
Social media is a fun way to stay in touch with friends, keep up to date with events in the news and see what’s going on with your favourite celebrities. There is also an infinite amount of knowledge available on social media which users can use to improve aspects of their lives such as their health, relationships and businesses.
However, there is a catch. There is a dark side to social media which is rarely highlighted or explored in popular culture but has been known to rear its ugly head causing upset and tragedy to the lives of people all over the world.
It’s the role social media plays in the cause of poor mental health.
The Effects Tied To Mental Health
A recent study tied social media use to decreased, disrupted, and delayed sleep, which is associated with depression, memory loss, and poor academic performance. Social media can also cause things such as FOMO (fear of missing out), isolation and a disorder known as body dysmorphia which is more common among young women.
"87% of children aged 12-15 have a social media profile in the UK."
The risk of experiencing any one of these effects gets higher the younger the user and peaks in the mid to late teens which is the age group where social media usage is most common, particularly usage of apps like Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat.
You see, social media is now a huge part of our lives and that is undeniable. This means that a large amount of the population are now exposed to the negative effects that can come with their social media usage. Anxiety and depression due to social media usage has been shown to occur more commonly among individuals who are classed as ‘overusing’ social media which is also classed as ‘social media addiction’
The reason for its addictive nature is that the outcome of entering social media is unpredictable. Nobody knows what they will see, what they will learn or what their friends are up to before entering the app. This means the behaviour is more likely to repeat because something new and novel is presented to the user each time making it more addictive and harder to resist.
Issues often stem when people begin comparing their lives to others. A study which showed the way women view and compare their bodies showed that 88% of women admitted to comparing their bodies to images they see in the media and on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
The main thing worth remembering is that social media isn’t real. The images someone shares on social media are simply the best moments of their life. Their feed doesn’t show the struggles and the not-so-glamorous side to their lives because naturally they want to focus on the good so that they receive attention and positive feedback. But this is what usually causes the demonstrated rise in anxiety and depression.
The bottom line is that social media can be used for positively interacting with others, expanding knowledge and keeping individuals in the loop with information that affects their lives but it's also important not to forget the other side.
Over-consuming content on social media or putting a lot of weight on the content you see others posting increases the likelihood of feeling anxious and depressed due to getting into the habit of comparing yourself to others. When using social media, it’s important to recognise that the content and images seen are simply the highlight reel of other people’s lives and they do not represent their lifestyle or even how they truly feel about themselves.
For individuals who struggle, it may be important to implement a set routine which determines the kind of relationship you have with social media. We will talk about this in our next blog post so stay tuned!