Technological advances and the advent of social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram have significantly altered the way we engage, socialize, and connect in today’s profoundly digital world. These websites help us make and maintain friends across borders. Although technologies and social media sites have obvious advantages, they can have obvious pitfalls. Individuals in today’s world, especially young people, spend the majority of their time sifting through social media pages. They miss out on the opportunity to develop the necessary social and emotional skills. They were also vulnerable to social media threats such as cyberbullying. Studies have shown that there is a positive link between the increased use of social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with depression. A report published in Computers in Human Behavior in the year 2016 revealed that social media sites lead to negative mental outcomes like anxiety and depression. The research surveyed 1787 young individuals across the nation. They were interviewed on their use of eleven most popular social networking sites including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Vine, Pinterest, Google Plus, Tumblr and LinkedIn. The study showed that people who used seven or more social networking sites stood a high risk of suffering from mental issues such as depression and anxiety disorders. However, the risk was much lower in people who used less than two social media sites.
There are several possible explanations for the link between depression and the social media use. One plausible explanation is that individuals who use numerous social networking sites tend to multitask frequently. These people have to regularly switch from one social media site to another sometimes using multiple devices. Previous studies have shown a close association between poorer cognition, low attention span and moods disorders in people. Furthermore, depressed people begin to use social networking platforms more because they lack the motivation to engage in real-life social interactions. This is according to the director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Brian Primack. Dr. Primack argues that people start heavily utilizing social media as way drowning their negative thoughts, only to make the depression worse (Chowdhry, 2016).
Studies show that we have had a rise in depression rates from 8.7 percent to 11.3 percent between 2005 and 2015 among adolescents. There was also a rise from 8.8 to 9.8 in the same timeframe in young adults. Major depression is expressed in the form of sadness and loss of interest in important life activities. Major depression lasts for at least two weeks. Depressed people also express other signs and symptoms like irritability, lack of self-care, weight gain or loss, insomnia, physical exhaustion, social isolation, and suicidal feelings. Depression can negatively impact social interaction and cause poor performance in school and work.
Instagram has been singled as the worst social media platform in relation to depression. The social networking sites are heavily associated with emotional problems in teenagers and young adults. Although the site has some benefits like offering a platform for self-identity and expression, the risks associated with its use are also obvious. For instance, it can place a lot of pressure among people to conform to certain social and cultural standards (Chowdhry, 2016). It can also act as a platform for bullying. Social media photos and posts can create unrealistic standards and expectations, leading to a feeling of low self-esteem and self-adequacy of those who cannot meet the set expectations. Viewing people posting photos on Facebook and Instagram dressed in a specific or doing some enjoyable activity can make other people feel that their lives are not good enough. This is called compare and despair attitude. Social media gets us depressed through drawing comparisons between ourselves and others.
The fact that Instagram is the most harmful site when it comes to causing depression is hardly surprising. Instagram alongside SnapChat is more image-centered and could create a feeling poor self-image and esteem among the young people. Let us consider this scenario. Supposing one saw his or her friend enjoying a vacation in Portugal and having a completely happy life. He or she will begin feeling inadequate and wondering why other people are having a perfect experience while for them life is miserable. Using social media people begin drawing a negative comparison between their lives and the lives of other people. In most cases, social media portrays a false image of peoples’ lives. Most of the images on social media are often edited and distorted to portray a certain impression of people (Zilles, 2017). However, in real life, these people may be leaving a completely different life from the one expressed on social media sites. On social media people normally put their best on display, but this not usually an actual reflection of their real life. This culture of false portrayal on social media leads to unnecessary comparisons and anxiety in people (Zilles, 2017).
Then there is information overload that comes with increased use of social networking sites like Facebook. There are numerous social media sites on offer, and most of the people use at least two of these sites. Imagine the constant stream of information and notifications from about four social media sites in addition to information and notification from text messages and emails. This creates information overload leading to a feeling of overstimulation. The overwhelming nature of social media platforms can lead to anxiety and depression in people. Massive information inflow also creates a feeling of distraction. We live in a world where distraction is a huge problem. With information emanating from every corner, it is easy to pay attention to the wrong information while ignoring the right one. A study conducted by Harris revealed that people waste 38 percent of their work time scrolling and managing their social media accounts. There is also a significant chunk of time in our personal lives wasted on social media. An average person spends two hours in a single day going through different social media platforms. Too much time spend on social media sites, and the distraction that results leads to fewer accomplishments in personal and professional lives and reduced real-life social interactions. Low levels of attainment in life can create negative feelings and cause anxiety in people (Zagorski, 2017).
Social media platforms have significant emotional risks that cannot be ignored. Since bursting onto the scene in 2004, social networking site, Facebook has grown from humble beginnings to register over 1.71 billion active members by the year 2016. It has become a central tool for communication and interaction in an increasingly modern world (Vitelli, 2016). The dark side of this social networking site is only beginning to emerge. In this age where cases of cyber stalking and bullying have become rampant, Facebook has become a playground for such acts (Vitelli, 2016). On a daily basis, ladies, in particular, have to deal with unwanted attention from total strangers. The mental effects on the recipients of unwanted online attention are enormous. Victims of social media harassment feel depressed and some become suicidal. Social media sites also form platforms for rumors, unnecessary arguments, and propaganda that cause an adrenaline rush in users. This mostly happens during political debates. A sense of negativity can be spread through this site, creating negative feelings in that process.
There is the physical exhaustion and body pain that increased use of social media sites come with. There are problems associated with vision back and neck issues and the general sedentary life that increased use of social media causes. Excessive use of social media reduces time for physical exercises. The sedentary lifestyle that results from excess use of social networking sites leads to health conditions like obesity. This health conditions are in themselves risk factors for depression. General poor health is also a risk factor for depression.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat, are major causes of real-life social isolation. Although people feel virtually connected on social media sites real-life interaction with people are often affected if too much time is spent on this sites. Excessive use of social media also affects our ability to communicate. While it is true that social media sites can help us communicate across broad range of distances and update us on what is going on in other peoples’ lives, there are hidden costs that come with the extreme use of these sites (Baines). We limit interactions with those who are within our vicinities to communicate with others who are miles away. It is common to find people going through Facebook and Instagram during social gatherings. We now post everything we do on social sites, including the food we eat. As a result, we miss out on real conservations and create a sense of loneliness (Baines). Lack of person to person contact and interaction is a huge contributor to depression. Social media cannot provide the social support that people need when they are facing problems in life.
Excessive use of social media creates an addiction just like drugs and alcohol do. When people cannot access their popular social networking site for one reason or the other, they become so depressed and withdrawn just like an alcoholic who cannot access his or her bottle of beer. Sometimes they become very irritable and anxious. The need to develop and manage our personal outlook on social media gets people addicted. They also lose a lot of energy and time on these sites (Baines).
Social networking sites have increased the rate at which we interact with our day to day lives. They have created a connected world. We can now keep in touch with friends and family in a more convenient and fast way. Social media has also become an engine for information, passing information across the globe at bewildering speed. But beyond this, social media use has become a risk factor for depression among the young individuals. Issues of cyber bullying and cyber stalking have become rife in this age of social media. There is also the social and cultural pressure that is created on medial social sites. Social media sites have set certain standards in terms of how people should dress and how their bodies should look like. Those who cannot meet these expectations end up being depressed.
Baines, W. (n.d). 7 Ways Social Media is Making You Depressed. Beliefnet. Retrieved Oct. 23, 2017, from http://www.beliefnet.com/wellness/health/emotional-health/depression/7-ways-social-media-is-making-you-depressed.aspx?
Chowdhry, A. (2016). Research Links Heavy Facebook And Social Media Usage To Depression. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved Oct. 23, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/amitchowdhry/2016/04/30/study-links-heavy-facebook-and-social-media-usage-to-depression/#27914d7a4b53
Vitelli, R. (2016). When Social Media Sparks Depression. Psychology Today. Retrieved Oct. 23, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201609/when-social-media-sparks-depression
Zagorski, N. (2017). Using Many Social Media Platforms Linked With Depression, Anxiety Risk. American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved Oct. 23, 2017, from http://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.pn.2017.1b16
Zilles, C. (2017). The Surprising Link Between Social Media And Depression. Socialmedia hq. Retrieved Oct. 23, 2017, from https://socialmediahq.com/surprising-link-social-media-depression/