Social Media on Mental Health: Boon or Bane?

Common social media apps found in a phone: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Skype and Messenger. Photo by Saulo Mohana via Unsplash

 

Are you a social media scroller? If yes, then you are not alone!

 

Social media plays a vital role in our lives, especially in the younger generations. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the most popular online activity among Australians is social media usage, with 91% of them aged between 15 to 19 (no surprise there). It was reported that teenagers spend up to 18 hours per week online. This is well above the average of 10 hours per week. I can totally #relate because I too would sometimes lose track of time, just by scrolling through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc. It really is overwhelming! With social media playing such a major role in today’s society, we would think that there would be “side effects”, especially on our mental health.

 

If so, could it be good or bad?

 

Well, current research says that it can be both!

 

The downside of social media

Studies have shown that social media can lead to eating disorders, anxiety, depression, risk of suicide and sleep problems. The cause? Well, it could be due to anything from cyberbullying to comparisons to unrealistic portrayals to exposure to self-harm and suicide contents. These findings may not be a total ‘shock’ to the most of us, as more and more movies and tv shows are starting to portray these issues.

 

There has even been research conducted to show that individuals who constantly check their social media before bed are more likely to rate themselves as lonely and less happy. It is said that these individuals would also subsequently suffer from mood problems, such as bipolar disorder and neuroticism. The person leading the research,  Professor Daniel Smith, has proposed that the cut-off time for social media use is 10pm. According to him, this will give the average adult some time to wind down.

 

You know what this means guys: Lights (from your mobile phone) off at 10pm!

 

The benefits of social media

Social media is not all bad though. There have been studies to show that using social media gives an individual a sense of community, support from friends, the ability to share resources and information as well as the ability to better understand others’ feelings. According to the UK Mental Health Foundation, there is no doubt that online technologies can be used to reach the most vulnerable group in the community. This is because, social media can reduce the stigma associated with seeking treatment for mental illness. As such, it can be used as a platform to let people know that they are not alone.

 

The burning question

The current literature on social media and mental health seems to be contradicting. There is also the problem of “which came first: the chicken or the egg”. What I mean by this is that, these studies are mostly cross-sectional studies. They are conducted at a specific point in time, whereby people are questioned about their exposure (in this case, social media) and outcome (i.e. mental health) at the same time. This may lead to ‘reverse causation’; i.e. does increased social media use lead to mental illness OR do people with mental illness spend more time on social media? It is clear that further research is needed to determine which comes first: social media or mental illness.

 

In my opinion, social media can be beneficial, as long as we practice moderation. It helps us build connections, maintain friendships and discover new and exciting things. If using a particular social media platform makes you feel insecure or unhappy in any way, then take a day off it. Go for a walk, breathe in the fresh air, do everything BUT social media and see how you go. You know yourself best so you should know what is best for your mental well-being.

 

If you are, by any chance, suffering from mental illness, please seek help! These are some of the non-profit organisations that may be able to help:

Lifeline Australia: https://www.lifeline.org.au/ OR call 13 11 14

Beyond blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/ OR call 1300 22 4636


7 Responses to “Social Media on Mental Health: Boon or Bane?”

  1. meenal deshpande says:

    Its totally depends upon individuals mentallity we can use it for wrong as well as right things.The communication industry is developing a lot with the help of Social media because it helps in the growth businesses, governments sector companiesThe communication industry is developing a lot with the help of Social media because it helps in the growth businesses, governments sector companies

  2. Sabrina Idrose says:

    Thanks Syafiqah- glad you liked it!

  3. Syafiqah Zulkefli says:

    I’m so used to reading articles either slamming social media, or putting it up on a pedestal. This is a nice take on the pros and cons of social media. Good work!

  4. Sabrina Idrose says:

    Thanks Stephanie! It’s okay, I’m exactly the same. One of the reasons why I chose this topic is because I needed a reminder myself!

  5. A very thorough and well-balanced post Sabrina. I’m guilty of spending a little too much time scrolling on social media. Good to be reminded to take everything in moderation.

  6. Sabrina Idrose says:

    Thanks Adrian! Yes, we should definitely learn to take some time off the virtual world.

  7. Adrian Marcato says:

    Really well balanced blog post Sabrina. Good to see both sides of the argument. It’s always a good reminder to hear that it is OK to escape the virtual world of social media and jump back to reality.