A major percentage of the social media user population is comprised of people belonging to the younger generation and teenagers.During the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been noticed that in the first couple of months, social media consumption has increased by 70% overall, with teenagers comprising of about 31% of it.One of the most important and primary reasons behind this rise in social media usage is the need to constantly stay in touch with people and also the need to make new friends.Some of the other reasons include the easy availability of smart devices and an internet connection, it also offers a wide range of entertainment etc. All these advantages of being on social media have eventually led to teenagers being emotionally invested in it. Coincidentally, a recent study has found that one in seven teenagers go through some form of mental disorder with depression, anxiety, and other behavioral disorders being the leading illnesses, and most of them are left unrecognized and untreated.The American Psychological Association has found that, in the past decade, mood disorders, depression, and suicidal thoughts and outcomes have pronouncedly increased amongst adolescents and young adults.
Drawing relations between the rise in social media usage amongst adolescents and the increased mental health issues in recent years, we can say that social media networking sites have predominantly played a huge role in the deteriorating mental health of teenagers. This conclusion can be drawn due to multiple reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that teenagers who use social media during the night are seen to be damaging their sleep schedule, which increases their risk of depression.Poor sleep is also well known to contribute to severe anxiety and low self-esteem in most cases. We notice that using social media networking sites unwantedly and needlessly can elevate misery, dissatisfied feeling with life, and most importantly a high risk of depression and other mental health problems. In recent times, we see that teenagers have reduced if not stopped going out for physical interactions and have started living a more sedentary and inactive lifestyle.This is majorly due to the increased use of social media networking sites which has enabled people to communicate and keep in touch with everyone at the tip of their fingers, without having to get out of their house. A review that studied 100,000+ participants, concluded that the ones who lived a sedentary lifestyle and behavior had an increased risk of depression.Hence, from this, we can say that lack of sleep and a sedentary lifestyle are caused mostly due to excessive social media usage are the main underlying factors behind depression and other mental health disorders in adolescents.
Another significant reason that links social media to depression in teenagers is cyber-bullying. Online bullying and harassment are huge hazards for the mental health of adolescents. Online bullying, slut-shaming, trolling, etc. harm a teenager’s mental health and can cause severe depression in them and sometimes can even lead to suicide. Depression is not the only side effect of cyber-bullying that happens on social media networking sites, loneliness, insecurity, isolation, academic decline are some other side effects. According to a study, 28% of social media users have been cyberbullied at least once in the year 2021 alone.The statistics show that name-calling and making up and spreading false rumors have been the leading type of cyberbullying.The teen who started to use social media for not more than 30 minutes in a day have shown fewer symptoms of depression and loneliness in just three weeks.When someone cyberbullies someone over social media, the victim feels insecure and undergoes mental trauma, this can be linked to depressive behavior. Cyberbullying is mostly done based on someone’s appearance which also includes racist and body-shaming comments, sharing something on social media networking sites that publicly mocks another person, impersonating someone, and creating fake accounts. In 2019, about 43% of teens which consisted mostly of teen girls and members part of the LGBTQ community in the US had experienced online harassment. Cyberbullying on social media can sometimes even trigger some kind of traumatic childhood experience they had commonly referred to as an ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience), which can be very harmful to the teenager’s mental health.
These are some of the ways by which social media can cause adverse effects on an adolescent’s mental health which can lead to depression. Spending too much time on these applications has been known to increase a feeling of anxiousness which then leads to depression and anxiety.Another factor that plays a huge role in increased depression rates in adolescents is the low self-esteem that arises from comparing themselves to people they see on social media. The unrealistic body comparisons can really take a toll on one’s mental health and experience a feeling of inadequacy that can often lead to depression.
In conclusion, we can say that although social media has helped us to connect plays a very important role in our life, we must also come to terms with these negative side effects social media has on a teen’s mental health. We have only seen social media as a tool to make friends, socialize we often do not realize that social media can also play a secret link with depression.Depression can immensely affect the way one thinks and feels and often intrudes their everyday activities. Some ways by which we can use social media and at the same time keep our mental health in check is by reducing screen time, going off social media by deactivating their accounts, and also seeking help from professionals. One must also remember that social media is not the real world and people do not post their failures and flaws on it, thus we cannot compare ourselves to what we see on social media platforms. We must not forget that real-life connections are much more important and valuable than the connections one makes virtually.
AUTHORED BY: R. SANA MYIESHA, STUDENT AT IFIM LAW COLLEGE
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