Could It Be That Social Media’s Doing Our Mental Health Harm?
The first email was sent over four decades ago, and since then the internet has gripped the world and turned into one digital village. Researching doesn’t involve going through countless thick, hardbound books, thanks to Google. Friends overseas are just a few buttons away, thanks to social media. One doesn’t have to go from one shop to another to buy things, thanks to online shopping. It’s no wonder many health experts dubbed sitting as the new smoking because we can go on sitting all day in front of our computers!
But for all the good the internet has brought us, it also has a dark side. Social media, in particular, might be causing a mental imbalance in us that could be harmful to our mental health.
In America, current estimates are that a child between the ages of 8-18 uses media (tv, books, computers, mp3 players and video games) nearly eight hours a day, while extreme users spend up to 12 hours a day with media, every day of the week. — Adi Jaffe Ph.D.
Knowing the Numbers
Facebook tops the list of the most famous social media platforms last year with over 2 million active users worldwide. It feels good to see friends, relatives, even loved ones who are far from us in their recent pictures or connect to them even by just chatting about mundane things.
Nevertheless, psychologists argue that scrolling through our Facebook feeds (or even with any other social media platform) mindlessly isn’t good for mental health.
- A 2012 study coined the term facebook depression – a depressive disorder researchers observed among older adolescents who felt dejected and suffered from low self-esteem after browsing through their social media feeds for hours. Accordingly, this condition stems up in young people who think their online friends don’t accept them or that they don’t belong.
- Recent research also investigated the connection between depressive symptoms of social media users and seeing the seemingly perfect lives of their online friends and found a significant link between the two.
- Psychologists even made a psychological scale used to measure a person’s Facebook addiction called the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale (in honor of Cecilie Andraessen of the University of Bergen who spearheaded the work).
- Aside from depression, many experts link excessive social media use to higher anxiety levels in users.
Over the past decade, a growing number of psychologists have started to see addiction to digital technologies as a form of behavioral addiction, similar to pathological gambling, and even to substance dependence addictions. — Utpal Dholakia Ph.D.
Explaining Social Media Fascination
Psychologists say that while reasons for social media use vary from one person to another, most of us log in to alleviate boredom or for self-distraction.
“Logging in serves as a positive reinforcement which is cemented more through the likes and comments we receive with every post we make,” says one psychology professor from Arizona. “It is but part of our instinct to repeat reinforced behaviors, so we keep coming back to social media even if we feel depressed or anxious because we feel we get acceptance there.It starts an ugly cycle that’s hard to stop like addiction to smoking and other stuff.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics, for their part, cautioned parents to monitor their kids’ social media presence and set limitations to avoid mental imbalance. Furthermore, they encourage parents to talk to their children about the potential harm they could encounter online like sexual predation that could lead to sexual abuse. Lastly, AAP stressed out the importance to respect social media sites’ specific minimum age for use like Facebook with its 18 years old and up age limitation.
The first step can feel like the most difficult one, but recovery from any type of addiction is absolutely possible for anyone willing to reach out for help. — Wendy Salazar, MFT
Dealing With The Whole Picture
The internet, in general, is one valuable tool if used wisely. One just has to exercise control over using it so as not to bring mental imbalance and suffer from it in the long run.