How Social Media May Not Be to Blame

One constant in our ever-connected world is social media. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat; they all serve the purpose of keeping us connected while we are physically apart. They offer a digital substitution for real, in-person interaction. Naturally, there are differences between interacting with someone face to face versus over a screen, and social media usage can have some drawbacks. This is not a new thing; most people agree that an over-reliance on social media can lead to negative consequences in a person’s life. Beyond causing a lack of social skills and hindering the ability to engage with their peers, it is believed that social media is a cause of mental illness, especially in youth. The general consensus is that too much exposure to social media can lead to an increased amount of anxiety and depression. It makes sense with how many people that scroll social media, only to find their peers sharing the best 10% of their lives. Everyone that has ever lived has to deal with the mundane details of day to day life, so seeing the best portions of others’ lives on a constant basis leads to a comparison of that 10% to our seemingly bland lives. This seems to be a good cause for this widely believed idea, But, if a recent study is to be believed, there actually isn’t a strong correlation between social media use and anxiety/depression in kids

In a recent study by Sarah Coyne at Brigham Young University, researchers found that teenagers using social media for extended periods of time did not show any increase in experiencing anxiety or depression. Increasing the amount of social media did not cause anything to build up, but rather it was the way in which a teenager was using social media that had a more adverse effect. Two teenagers using social media for the same amount of time experienced different outcomes because they used it in different ways; a teenager going on to social media to see what their favorite bands have posted had a different experience than the teenager going on to look at their peers from school. As the study notes, mental illness is an incredibly complex thing, and there are many facets and factors to it that can have different results for different people. At the heart of the issue, the problem isn’t necessarily social media itself, but rather the insecurity, thought processes, and beliefs of the person using it. If a teenager is having a negative result from experiencing social media, this most likely means they have an underlying issue themselves, and their experience is just bringing those issues to light. 

The study gave some suggestions for people to use on social media for a more healthy and conducive experience. They encourage people to be intentional when getting on to social media. Know what you are logging on for, what your intended purpose is, and what you are trying to accomplish. Avoid getting sucked into the rabbit hole of content consumption, and be an active user as well; don’t just scroll and watch, but actively comment and engage with people. Creating that connection will make the experience healthier overall. Finally, as a rule of thumb, try to limit social media usage. As is the case with almost anything, an over-reliance or over-consumption of anything can yield negative results. With social media, it can create negative and unhealthy thoughts and behaviors so by limiting yourself to a certain amount of time, you can be able to disengage from those negative behaviors, as a result, developing a more positive relationship with the platforms. Being aware and intentional about your use of social media can go a long way in helping improve your experiences with it, and thus having a better state of mental health. The study notes to cease social media use at least an hour before falling asleep to better help the amount of sleep you can get, which is a huge part of mental health. As we all know, getting more sleep means a better state of mind. 

We don’t need to have a witch hunt for social media or put blame on it. Yes, it can affect and influence our lives, but it is not the driving factor behind any mental illness that we may face. It simply has an influence. The issues that lead to it being a problem are underlying and vary from person to person. Social media will not, in and of itself, create mental illnesses in a person, but rather affect what the person already feels or thinks. Understanding ourselves or our children can do a lot to help us know what the best way to engage is. If we see these problems already present, then we can know how to create the best experience for ourselves. We always need to be self-aware while dealing with mental illness so as to best protect ourselves from what can harm us. Social media is not the thing that can harm us; it is how we use it. 

     If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with anxiety or mental illness, do not hesitate to contact the team here at True Recovery. Our program, founded in 2014, is built around finding what’s best for you to overcome your addiction. Our facility is located in Newport Beach, California, with our supportive housing located close to our campus in Costa Mesa. Take advantage of the local beaches, nature preserves, and Orange County community while we fight for you. Contact us at (866) 399-6528 or [email protected]