September 27th, 2019
Social media causes mental health concerns for many
FRI. | 9-25-20 | OPINION
When we log onto social media, many of us are greeted with posts from family and friends, and we see the wonderful things that they decided to share. Some could also be greeted with a lot of hurtful and harmful messages, and these messages can lead to many different negative emotions.
Studies have shown how much social media can affect a person’s mental health. According to an article by psychologists, David Luxton, Jennifer June, and Jonathan Fairall, high levels of internet usage have been correlated with increasing suicide rates. Suicidal thoughts are often caused by cyberbullies targeting a user and lowering their self-esteem; sometimes with the victim even being told to kill themselves. If you notice your self-esteem begins to drop, it is best for you to take a break from social media and try to avoid any triggering content. A study at the University of Pennsylvania shows that not being connected to social media for more than 30
Graphic by Liv Stewart
minutes a day can reduce stress and anxiety.
Thinking about it from personal experience, social media is something that can be very stressful and frustrating, especially for me. Sometimes it would get to a point where it was difficult for me to even post things without getting some form of negative feedback. When I was going through this, I decided that it was best to take a break from social media and work on personal issues that were going on. After taking a break, I then started to feel a bit better about myself, and I began to worry less about what others were saying and posting.
You are not always going to get positive reactions when you get recognition on social media. Sometimes there is that one comment that does not sit with you right, and sooner or later, that comment could turn into so much more. When I post things, sometimes I can get comments or direct messages from people who don’t necessarily agree with what I’ve posted, and sometimes these comments can keep me up at night. I will sometimes get this urge that I need to respond to it, even though I know it wouldn’t solve anything, and it would probably start an argument that didn’t need to be started.
“It is like drinking from a firehose,” ECU marriage therapist Dr. Jennifer Hodgson said. “You cannot always control the flow of information and turning away from it can be hard as well.”
According to the Addiction Center, an estimated 27% of teens and young adults who spend three or more hours a day on social media exhibit symptoms of poor mental health. Addiction Center is a website that can help an individual to find help for their addictions, with information concerning rehabilitation centers in local areas as well as how to handle addiction.
Teens and young adults who have trouble communicating tend to be on social media more. Hodgson says that the reason why teens are so attached to social media is because of the lack of social support and connections that they have. They could lack friendships or have negative relationships with family. Social media is able to allow these individuals to find new people to communicate with in hope of finding new friends. When it comes to quarantine, teens and young adults are more likely to be on social media more frequently.
“One of the reasons why social media affects teens more right now is because they are staying at home more, and these aren’t always safe spaces,” Hodgson said. This can cause the addiction to worsen, and it would make it harder to find help.
Teens and young adults can also use social media as a way to cope with other issues.
“It’s an escape,” Founder and CEO of One Touch Community Counseling and Rose Alumni, Dr. Tanisha Johnson said. “They create an online persona for themselves, but once they log off, they’re left to deal with their problems.”
Teens now are more reliant on social media because they have been surrounded by it their whole life. Despite the risk of negative effects, it is still important for teens to have social media because their mental and social skills are still developing, and it helps them to socialize more. However, they will stay on it for longer periods of time. Adults can get addicted to social media too, but Johnson says that they handle it better because they are more mature and are able to better handle the pull of social media. The human brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25, and it has experienced a lot more than a younger brain.
It is not always easy to resolve an addiction. Johnson says that the first thing that leads to success is admitting that there is a problem, and it is possible that our brains react to social media the same way it reacts to drugs and alcohol. At the beginning of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, facilitators ask participants to say they are addicted in effort to cause self-realization. Addiction Center was able to prove that the largest part of your brain, the cerebrum, lights up when getting an addicting fix from a substance, and it does the same for social media. It is very important that someone with an addiction gets help.
“There are great therapy methods that help with trying to break newly formed habits,” Hodgson said. “Ideally, this is done with a therapist and lots of support - just like any habits we try to change like sleeping, eating, or physical activity.”
Sometimes it’s hard to afford help from a therapist, or it may feel scary to do so.
“I encourage that students look for help if they need it, and if it’s severe, they should contact the Suicide Hotline (800-273-8255) or text Crisis Textline (text HOME to 741741),” Hogdson said.
These lines are available 24/7, and they are all free.
Suicide is a very important issue, and even though problems can seem permanent, they are only temporary. When someone voluntarily ends their life, they will never know if it gets better. It is important to try to recognize if someone is going through depression. They could lack motivation, isolate themselves, have low self-esteem, feel guilty, etc. It is important to recognize these signs and address them as soon as possible. This topic is relevant, especially since September is Suicide Prevention month. Now is a time to share stories and experiences with suicide and depression, and it is the best time to reach out to others and try to make them feel less alone. This can help to inspire and spread awareness.