Its crazy the way social media has completely changed the way our world operates. Gone are the days when a friend was actually someone who you spent time with, rather than someone who is just connected with you online. Its no longer enough to have a social reputation, now you also have a virtual one.
Social media is great for a lot of thingsconnecting with (real) friends and family who live far away, reading the latest news or seeing todays pregnancy announcements. Heck, the only reason my job even exists is because of social media.
We all know the dangers of social mediaviolations of privacy, “cat-fishing,” people learning too much about you and even predators that are after our children. But what about the dangers that often go unseen?
A recent survey conducted in the U.K. suggests that social media platforms are believed to pose a staggering threat to mental health.
The poll, conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health, was given to 1,479 young people between the ages of 14 and 24. They were asked to score the most popular social media platforms based on 14 different health and well-being issues or topicsthings like anxiety, depression, bullying, body image and loneliness.
YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat were the apps featured in the survey.
According to the RSPH, 90 percent of young people use social mediamore than any other demographic of peoplewhich is why they are believed to be more vulnerable to the effects of social media.
Surveyed users found YouTube to have the most positive influence on mental health, while Twitter and Facebook followed suit.
Instagram and Snapchatboth image-heavy platformswere given the lowest scores by those surveyed.
Ironically enough, Instagram has repeatedly stated that maintaining a safe and supportiveenvironment for young people is one of the platforms top priorities. Yet its one of two platforms that invokes the most threats to the mental health of young people.
“It is interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and well-being, says Shirley CramerChief Executive of the RSPH. Both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.”
Of course, being that the survey scored 14 areas of experience on each social media platform, Instagram didnt completely fail. Users found the app to offer a positive impact on self-expression and self-identity.
Isla Whateley is living proof of the double-edged-sword that is social media. While going through tough times in her teens, Isla turned to social media to help her through.
“The online communities made me feel included and that I was worthwhile, she says. However, I soon began to neglect ‘real life’ friendships and constantly spent all my time online talking to my friends there. I fell into a deep depressive episode aged 16, which lasted for months and was utterly horrible.
Isla says that during her first depressive episode, social media made her feel even worsecausing her to constantly compare herself to other people, and see only the bad qualities in herself.
“When I was 19, I had another bad depressive episode. I’d go on social media, see all my friends doing things and hate myself for not being able to do them, or feel bad that I wasn’t as good a person as them.”
Since then, Isla has found ways to make social media work for her, rather than letting it take hold of her mental health.
“I have blogged a lot about mental health and I’m quite open about it and have good conversations with people about it. I find it gives me a platform to talk, and talking with people is something I find imperative to my own health.
Seventy percentof the young people surveyed said that they supported social media platforms introducing pop-ups that warned them of using the app for a long period of time.
The RSPH findings are being used by public health officials to present a series of checks and measures that would offer positive wellness support for users across all platforms.
This is the world our kids are living in today. One thats virtual, and full of Satans favorite weapon: comparison.
In addition to the apps incorporating precautionary measures, its important that we regularly talk with our children about the hidden dangers of social mediathose thatcan take a toll on our mental health, and arent necessarily inflicted by the wrong-doing of others.
Hard conversations are always worth it, and in a world where our kids are taught to compare themselves to others, its imperative that they be reminded who they are, and WHOSE they are.