Social Media scrolls to depression

January 21, 2018 — by Sanjana Melkote and Anna Novoselov

As the school bell rings, students pull out their phones to check out the latest on social media sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter. Later in the day, they scroll past more posts, ranging from snapshots of memories to funny memes, in between after school activities and during study breaks.

Those quick instances of looking at a screen can add up. It is easy to get sucked into the virtual world, and a couple minutes of glancing at a phone can turn into hours of scrolling.

Spending significant portions of time on various social media sites should be discouraged among teens themselves and by adults, as it is correlated with negative mental health effects, such as depression, anxiety and loneliness. It can exacerbate the struggles of adolescence and make one feel dismal about his or her own existence after seeing the polished and glamorized feeds of others.

According to a new study from the family technology education non-profit group, Common Sense Media, teenagers spend on average nine hours per day interacting with media.

However, according to a study published online in “Computers and Human Behavior,” these patterns of depression and anxiety seem more directly linked with the usage of different social media platforms rather than the time spent online. The findings showed that individuals who use seven to 11 sites had a risk of depression three times greater than those who reported using zero to two sites.

The plethora of media resources available to teens today can lend itself to immense productivity and success, but when teens get sucked into scrolling endlessly on social media websites, they multitask and their attention is divided.

This prolonged multitasking between apps, feeds, stories, posts and videos correlates to deteriorated attention span, cognition and mood.

At this point, social media doesn’t serve as a platform for people to express oneself and share their experiences but rather as a distraction. Constantly switching between various social media websites divides teens’ attention and deters them from working towards tangible goals.  

Not only does prioritizing social media distract teens from their personal relationships and undermine their chance at personal success, but the pictures and videos they view online can give them false expectations for their lives offline.

Many people download a semblance of themselves to post online, highlighting the snapshotted memories that they want to remember. This can create an fictitious perception of a perfect life on another’s screen.

Seeing idealized versions of others fabricates feelings of worthlessness, insecurity, and jealousy in individuals, who believe that their own lives do not compare.

A study done by the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health links high social media usage to an increased risk of depression. In a study of 1,787 adults ages 19-32 in 2014, the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System Depression Scale, an instrument for measuring depression risks, reported a 2.7 times higher chance of despondency for those who checked social media most frequently compared to those who checked it less often.

Social media can also be a direct cause of depression as teenagers who are already struggling with self confidence, can be victim to or even initiate situations of cyberbullying.

While teenagers don’t see the person behind the screen they are interacting with, the emotions inflicted by cyberbullying are still very real. Cyberbullies can cyberstalk, encourage mean spirited comments and socially isolate someone with just few clicks.

Nevertheless, social media is a valuable tool for connecting individuals and communicating ideas. It can be a platform for teens to showcase their personality and spread awareness about important issues.

But the key here is moderation. Limited time online is beneficial; it is obsessive use that causes negative impacts.

If teenagers have a sense of self outside from their feeds, online friends and posts that guides them through their online conduct and interactions, they can use social media as a tool to further empower themselves and others rather than cause anxiety and depression.

The world today is evolving digitally and being a part of society almost requires a frequent engagement with social media. In order to for teens to reap the advantages that a digital world provides, it is important to moderate their exposure, provide diverse experiences that allow them to be disconnected and establish a healthy balance between a teen’s online and offline life. Awareness about the effects of obsessive online use should be spread, which would encourage individuals to spend more time off the internet.

Teens should logout of social media sites, even if just for a while, and “like” their lives in the non-virtual world.

 

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