The Negative Effects of Too Much Social Media

It is rare to meet a teenager who doesn’t know what Facebook is, and how it is relevant in our culture. In fact, social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are now used by 1 in 4 people worldwide. The social media world puts a lot of pressure on teenagers these days and it’s important to recognize the negative implications it can put on their mental development and overall health.

A study has been found that states that teenagers who frequent their social media during the night could be damaging their sleep patterns and increasing their risk for anxiety and depression. In the study teenagers talked about how they feel pressure from their peers to be available via social media at all hours. This can result in increased anxiety if they do not immediately respond to texts or social media posts. I know that even I am guilty of waking up at three am and checking my phone to make sure I haven’t missed any important text messages or twitter drama, and I’m not even a teenager. Researchers say that teenagers need nine and half hours of sleep per night but they tend to only get six to seven. This can also lead to anxiety, depression, irritability, and many other mentally hindering emotional states.

Studies have also shown that social media has a larger negative impact on young females. A study of teenage stress commissioned by the National Citizen’s Service youth program suggests that girls seek comfort from social media when they are anxious and worried. The survey of 1,000 12–18-year-olds found that nine out of 10 teenage girls have experienced stress in the past year. According to the study, girls are more likely to turn to their social media and friends rather than talk to their parents. In our society there is so much pressure on young girls to be perfect, look perfect, and act perfect just to please their ‘followers’. If you don’t meet these insanely high standards, this can lead to self-loathing, depression, and cyber bullying. When young girls turn to social media when they’re feeling stressed, it tends to lead to more negativity rather than a positive, uplifting, environment.

A more recent study, led by social psychiatrist Ethan Cross of the University of Michigan, found that using Facebook may even make us miserable. The participants of the study were asked a series of questions everyday while also increasing their daily Facebook use. Over a fourteen day period, participants reported that their mental well-being had declined. “On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. But rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result — it undermines it.”

That being said, Social media isn’t all bad. It can conjure environments that can lead to educational, uplifting, and socially productive interactions. It’s a great way to communicate and keep in touch with friends and family and enhance our connectivity. It also can help with the socialization of teenagers. Research presented at the 119th annual American Psychological Association found that introverted adolescents can actually gain social skills by using social media. This is because introverted adolescents may feel safer behind a computer screen (smartphones, tablets, etc.) Dr. Larry D. Rosen, who presented the information, also stated that teens were becoming very good at virtually expressing empathy towards others.

Ultimately the adolescent use of social media can lead to negative outcomes and it is important to be educated and aware of those outcomes. It is up to the individual (and perhaps, the individual’s parents) to decide what is best in regards to social media usage. Social Media does have an affect (negative or otherwise) on mental health and development. It is concerning the amount of studies that have been conducted that demonstrate the mental health of teenagers is on the line. We know the perils of social media and the negative effects on the mental health of America’s youth, yet nothing has been done. Inaction on these issues is harming the physical and emotional health of young people in this country. What has to happen before we do something?