• MentalHealthIO

Why Social Media Is Not All Bad?


Written by: Marlin Yacoub


Introduction:

Internet and social media use are very different compared to their usage in the past. This popularity is constantly growing as the years go by. In today’s current situation, COVID-19 and quarantine, internet and social media use has skyrocketed. With everyone stuck at home, individuals spend a lot of their time navigating through social media. Users spend time on social media to connect with family and friends, to relax, and to get updates about the world around them. With this increased use of social media, one should question the psychological impact of sitting in front of a screen. Too much of anything, whether good or bad, has the potential to cause harm. Although there are many studies that look at the impact of social media on teenagers' mental health, a lot of the studies explore the negative effects rather than both positive and negative effects of social media use. 


Social Media Use: 

Social networking has become an essential part of everyday life to keep in touch with family and friends, career networks, communities, and news. Collecting data to keep track of social media users allows for insight into the social media world. According to research, there are “more than 4.5 billion people using the internet,” passing the previous mark by nine percent (Chaffey, 2020). This indicates that at least 60 percent of the world’s population “is already online, and it is predicted that “half the world’s total population” will be online and using social media (Chaffey, 2020). 

These statistics indicate that social media use has become readily prevalent over the past few years. The increased use of social media has allowed people around the world to connect. Diverse age groups are actively social with one another varying in the amount of time that they spend on it. There are different social media platforms that users are actively on and using. The most popular social media platforms include Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Snapchat (Chaffey, 2020). Through these different social media platforms, users are able to communicate with friends, families, and colleagues, as well as brands and news outlets. 



Two Dimensions of Social Media:

The increased usage of social media indicates the need to explore the two dimensions of social media. Humans are social creatures with a need to connect with others in order to thrive in life. Strengthening the connections with others impacts both an individual’s mental health and wellness. Being socially connected allows for one to easily “ease [their] stress, anxiety, [and] depression,” as well as allows for one to “[boost] self-worth [and] provide comfort” (Robinson & Smith, 2020). By lacking those social connections, one can risk their mental and emotional health. This indicates that the proper use of social media can be beneficial for users in many ways, however, not using their platforms correctly can result in more harm than good. There are  health-related outcomes that relate to social media use such as social well-being, positive mental health, and self-related health. 

Data has indicated that “45% [of] adolescents” are constantly online while “44% [are] online [for] at least several times a day” (Mir et al., 2020). The different platforms of social media are used for communication with friends and to share the news. As previously mentioned, the six main platforms used by adolescents are Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter. All six platforms have a similar function of sharing experiences, news, photos and/or videos, and talent. 


Social Media Usage:

There are two different types of users on social media platforms. The first type of user is one who routinely checks their social media accounts and responds to content. These users are “positively associated with the three health outcomes” (Bekalu & Sheung, 2020). The second type of user is one who is emotionally connected to their platforms and excessively checks their apps. These users usually experience FOMO, also known as “fear of missing out”, “being disappointed [and] feeling disconnected” (Bekalu & Sheung, 2020), albeit social media being designed to “bring people closer” as well as to “connect people from across the globe” (Robinson & Smith, 2020). Although social media allows for social networking, it can never be a replacement for real-world human connections. 

Social media usage can be broken down into passive usage and active usage. Passive usage is the “practice of quietly observing other people’s social media [accounts]” (Whitley, 2020). Passive users are usually younger users who make flawed assumptions about others’ daily lives. Active usage is the “practice of regularly posting videos, pictures, status updates, comments, or posts” (Whitley, 2020). Many of those users are said to be posting with the purpose of seeking approval, in other terms “fishing for likes” (Whitley, 2020). This can lead to unhealthy self-scrutiny or cyberbullying. 


Negative Association:

A lot of research done on this specific focuses on the negative impacts of social media usage. As stated previously, too much of anything, whether good or bad, can potentially cause more harm than good. Therefore, constantly being on social media, in an obsessive matter, can be non-beneficial to users. There are many negative associations with mental health and well being with increased usage of social platforms. Although there is research done to investigate the impact of internet use, there is little research on the long-term consequence of social media use.

Problematic internet and social media use, being addicted or glued to one’s phone, can contribute to an increased risk of depression and anxiety symptoms. Many of the studies have indicated that there are strong links between heavy social media use and increased risk of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts (Robinson & Smith, 2020). In many situations, social networking can sometimes prompt negative experiences such as “inadequacy about life [or] appearance, isolation, cyberbullying, and self-absorption” (Robinson & Smith, 2020). The problem becomes worse when one starts spending more time online than with real friends. This causes a problem because no matter how many followers one might have, or how many friends they have in the real world, users can begin to feel like they are alone and isolated. 

Overall, data has proven that increased social media usage can result in varying mental health problems. “25% [of] adolescents believe that social media” has negatively impacted them (Mir et al., 2020). Researchers have also concluded that the main problem of obsessive social media usage can “disrupt sleep,” poor sleep can then result in more anxiety and depression (Mir et al., 2020). Many users experience negative association with social media use when they’ve reached their own limit. Passing that limit can impact the user’s moods and other aspects of life, such as motivation. 


Positive Association:

When used properly, social media can be beneficial to users. Social media can allow for the promotion of positive mental health and well being. More and more, many users promote self-love and appreciate as well as confidence. Routine social media use can compensate for diminishing face-to-face interactions. This applies to those who have busy lives or for situations that our society is currently in. Although it allows for some communication, it does not provide the “same psychological benefits as face-to-face contact” (Robinson & Smith, 2020). It also allows for an outlet that allows users to express their creativity and self-expression. In addition, it becomes a source of valuable information and learning.

The different social platforms provide individuals to overcome barriers such as distance and time. The six most common platforms used today allow for “connection [or] reconnection with others,” this allows for people all over the world to connect and allows for fusion and learning of cultures (Bekalu & Sheung, 2020). They also allow for the “[expanding] and [strengthening of] networks and interactions” (Bekalu & Sheung, 2020). With these possibilities, social networking becomes essential when individuals are stuck at home or are limited in face-to-face contact. Social networking also allows users to “find new friends and communicate [with others] that share similar interests” (Robinson & Smith, 2020). This means that users can create vital social connections that promote positive mental health. 

Social media can provide a great outlet for users to gain new friends, find help when needed, and find sources to learn. Compared to the 25% that stated that social media usage has negatively impacted their lives, 31% believe that “social media has positively impacted their lives” (Mir et al., 2020). Many contribute this to the fact that they can easily connect with friends and family. These positive contributions can be attributed to “social connection, [formation of] communities, [keeping] in touch, and social support” (Mir et al., 2020). Although there are many negative associations, there are also many positive associations of social media usage. 


Conclusion:

Across the varying demographics of social media users, there are benefits and drawbacks that are associated with social media use. Many users can use their social media accounts as security blankets that they go on when feeling anxious or lonely. However, increasing the amount of time one spends on his or her account can cause an increased feeling of depression, loneliness as well as unpleasant feelings about oneself. Users who are extreme users, those who are “[constantly] checking apps or etc.” can experience negative associations (Bekalu & Sheung, 2020). Low levels of social media usage have been associated with better mental and emotional health This is explained by the idea that individuals who are able to control “the amount of time one spends on social media” can experience positive associations (Bekalu & Sheung, 2020). Although a lot of research has been done to investigate the impact social media has on mental health, there has not been a lot of research on the long-term impact of social media usage and the positive impacts of social media usage. In conclusion, social media users can experience both positive and negative impacts depending on their ability to control the amount of time they spend on apps. 


Works Cited


Bekalu, M. A., & Sheung, L. K. (2020, May 28). Social Media Use Can Be Positive For Mental Health And Well-Being. Harvard T.H. Chan . https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/social-media-positive-mental-health/.

Chaffey, D. (2020, June 17). Global Social Media Research Summary 2020. https://www.smartinsights.com/social-media-marketing/social-media-strategy/new-global-social-media-research/.

Mir, E., Novas, C., & Seymour, M. (2020, July 16). Social Media and Adolescents' and Young Adults' Mental Health. National Center for Health Research. http://www.center4research.org/social-media-affects-mental-health/.

Robinson, L., & Smith, M. (2020, January). Social Media and Mental Health. HelpGuide. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/social-media-and-mental-health.htm.

Whitley, R. (2020, February 17). Social Media and Mental Health: Time for a Digital Detox? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/talking-about-men/202002/social-media-and-mental-health-time-digital-detox.



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