Social media has emerged as the most cussed and discussed area when it comes to well-being in the 21st century. Social media has a lot of impact on our mental health and wellbeing, both positively and negatively. Social media refers to the means of interactions among people via virtual communities and networks. Being socially connected to others gives us the sense of companionship which makes interpersonal relationships grow and help individuals to thrive in life. The strength of our interpersonal connections has a huge impact on our mental health and happiness. It can ease stress, anxiety, and depression, boost self-worth, provide comfort and joy, prevent loneliness, and even add years to our life. On the flip side, lacking strong social connections can pose a serious risk to our mental and emotional health. Social media may have it’s various benefits, but it can never be a replacement for real-world human connection. It requires in-person contact with others to trigger the hormones that alleviate stress and make us feel happier, healthier, and more positive. Spending too much time engaging with social media can actually make us feel more lonely and isolated— and exacerbate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
The adolescent population is most affected by the unhealthy impact of social media. In this spectrum of the population, the prevalence of issues like anxiety and depression are alarmingly high. The National Mental Health Survey 2015-16 shows that in India, 9.8 million teenagers in the age group 13-17 years suffer from depression and other mental health ailments and are “in need of active intervention”. Excessive usage and addiction of social media can have many psychological, physiological, social, emotional and behavioral effects. Individual’s using excessive social media experience increased levels of anxiety and distress as well. Psychologically, excessive use of social media can lead to the neglect of personal life, mental preoccupation, escapism, withdrawal, loss of sleep and feelings of hopelessness. Individuals also get caught in the delusion of thinking that this excessive use of the social media is helpful to them in some way because of forecasting errors. Instead, it makes them feel tense and susceptible to more negative effects. Socially, this excessive use of social media can impact the interpersonal relationship of the adolescents and can lead to social isolation, FOMO (fear of missing out), loneliness and even the lack of social interaction skills. Adolescents tend to self-isolate themselves socially due the tendency of comparison of achievements with their peers. Owing to this, judgements are made on how each individual is keeping up. Hence, the adolescents develop a fear of missing out due to this comparison factor which may aggravate depressive symptoms as well. Social media is also responsible for setting up unrealistic expectations for the human race, including adolescents. Spending a lot of time on social media scrolling and looking at what others are up to can impact adolescents emotionally in a negative manner. It can bring about unhealthy competition, jealousy and envy among peers. This can lead to invidious feelings for others. It can even trigger more sadness than well-being of the people, thus providing less moment to moment happiness and life satisfaction. Many adolescents spend their time playing games online and using different applications. This brings about anger and irritation among them and leads to negative thought processes, less attention span and also impacts their brain development. Cognitive distortions which are the inaccurate thoughts that are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions- telling individuals things that sound rational but they only serve to keep them feeling bad about themselves also takes place due to the use of social media. In addition to this, there can be various psychological, biological and social factors which can make an individual more susceptible to mental health issues.
The biological factors responsible for the same are genetic predisposition, brain chemistry, etc. Individuals who have existing mental health issues are more likely to be affected as compared to their counterparts. Other factors like low self-esteem, academic failure, etc. can also contribute to this. Social factors like child abuse, loneliness, substance use, financial crises, Covid-19 etc. can also affect mental health in a bad way and put effected individuals at more risk. There are various factors which help individuals fight against the risk factors and promote positive wellbeing.
Promoting Wellbeing among Adolescents:
- Promoting Healthy Family environment: Adolescents who have a healthy atmosphere at homes along with positive parents-child interactions have a better and healthier mindset as compared to individuals with a toxic and unhealthy home atmosphere.
- Promoting Mental Health: Mental health needs to be promoted at schools which help individuals deal with psychological issues effectively.
- Improving self-esteem: Adolescents who have a better ability to cope with stress or high self-esteem tend to look at things in a positive perspective as compared to those who stress a lot or have low self-esteem. This can promote positive wellbeing and protect an individual against the risk factors.
- Positive integration of Social Media: With proper and healthy use of social media, the influence from the negative outcomes can be changed. Many small things can be done to achieve this.
- Reducing Screen Time: Simply reducing the screen time can make a big difference. Also, one can unfollow the accounts or pages which they found to be detrimental to their mental health, and can even take a break from it when they feel so. If a person feels prolonged stress or anxiety, going to a qualified professional Psychologist could be of great help.