Sunday, July 21, 2024

Social media: helpful or hurtful?


By Victoria Campbell

If you knew the mental consequences of social media, would you continue to use it? Social media has existed since 1997, but its consequences have been hidden.  Social media continues to grow and expand, but is that a good thing? 

According to a study by Harvard University, social media is both psychologically and physically addictive due to social networking lighting up the same section of the brain that also lights up when taking an addictive substance. 

Do you notice an addictive relationship with your phone, and would you stop if you knew it could cause underlying mental health issues?  Missing out can create depression and anxiety, according to McLean Hospital. Most users experience the fear of missing out, commonly known as FOMO, when they notice they are not involved in an activity or cannot have a so-called perfect lifestyle. This phenomenon can impact feelings and affect some physically. 

Addiction, especially to social media, can disrupt and affect sleep, which can be associated with depression and memory loss. This leads to a decrease in academics due to not having the motivation to fulfill academic responsibilities. 

Social media can be filled with comparison, perfection and insecurities due to photoshopping and portrayals of idealistic lifestyle. This can cause issues among a younger audience, especially when on it for hours daily.  Not only is the lifestyle unrealistic, but it gives a false reality of life, which could cause mental distress and depressive episodes. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, 45.4% of students spend at least 1-3 hours daily on social media, specifically Instagram, Facebook, X, formerly known as Twitter and TikTok. COVID-19 caused people to spend hours on a cellular device as expected, but some continued these habits even after quarantine restrictions were lifted. 

The perfect lifestyles seen online can cause FOMO, which can lead to anxiety and depression, especially if missing out on activities or cannot have that lifestyle. 

According to the Social Media Victims Law Center, FOMO significantly impacts social media users, driving them crazy to check notifications constantly, which can slowly become an issue with outside friendships and relationships. 

Previously, FOMO was used for other terms in advertising, but now It impacts mental health. Social media started using FOMO to attract users and cause an unhealthy urge to visit the platforms regularly. 

While wanting to be updated is expected, many tend to develop FOMO from social media platforms. It makes checking consistent, and with these platforms, convincing users to check regularly makes the platform money. These types of strategies used from media apps typically work on younger generations, young adults, teens, and children, due to them having a tendency of comparing themselves.

These behaviors and attitudes are deeply ingrained in our culture and young adults. It is going to take a lot of time and effort to reverse the effects social media has had, but hopefully users remember that there is more to be experienced than what is on the screen.

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