Technological progress caused an increased involvement of technologies such as social media in the daily life of ordinary people and teenagers. However, despite the original positive purpose of social media being a source of communication with friends and family and meeting new people, social media nowadays presents a negative environment, especially for young individuals. Increased use of social media and exposure to the negativity in online space results in all sorts of negative outcomes, from lowered self-esteem and bullying to an increased number of depression diagnoses and teenage suicides. There are several aspects of social media aside from its toxic climate that negatively affect the developing mentality of teenagers; acknowledging those aspects and spreading awareness will improve the state of teenagers’ mental health.
In order to start the exploration of the issue, one should determine whether it is the social media use that negatively affects the teenager’s mental health or the negative climate of the online environment. It turns out that both aspects contribute to the aggravation of adolescents’ mental health and present a threatening issue to the future development of society. According to an analysis performed by Abi-Jaoude et al., the daily use of electronic media above the recommended limit of an hour in a day is closely connected to the insufficient duration of sleep among adolescents (3). The general use of electronic screens such as smartphones before bedtime negatively influences the time required for an individual to fall asleep, reduces the level of melatonin secretion, and reduces alertness during the next morning. The decrease in sleep duration and the quality of sleep is common and not as threatening among adults. However, combined with the external pressure imposed on teenagers by society, it could result in decreased academic performance, increased fatigue, and depression tendencies. Thus, the increased use of social media contributes to the state of teenagers’ mental health.
Further in the topic, another significant point of the issue that adds to the complex character of the negativity expressed in social media is anonymity. The anonymity feature allows and facilitates the process where other users can express hateful emotions without having to bear the consequences, resulting in an increased number of cases of cyberbullying. The aspects create opportunity and cultivate a toxic environment where users create fake anonymous accounts besides their primary account to express negativity. In most cases, the use of social media helps teenagers develop communication skills that could be later used in real-life interactions with peers. However, in cases of adolescents who already experience a tendency to mental health struggles, the additional amount of anonymous negativity on social media could lead to negative outcomes. Additionally, as pointed by one of the participants of the research performed by O’Reilly, teenagers feel uncomfortable sharing their concerns on online issues with their parents (5). The most threatful part of cyberbullying is that it affects the undeveloped teenager’s mentality to the point of committing self-harm or even suicide.
Finally, the last aspect in which social media significantly affects the mental health of teenagers and even some adults are inappropriate expectations. Due to the high level of media content such as images and videos presented across social media and entertainment platforms, individuals feel pressure to fit the imposed beauty and lifestyle standards. Even though the issue appears to be more common among female adolescents, there also are cases where teenage boys experience appearance-related complexes. The situation is worsened by the heavy use of beauty camera filters, which directly use an individual’s face and visually modify it to fit the beauty standards through AR technology. Photoshop and other photo-manipulating apps are also frequently used in social media without necessarily mentioning their use, which distorts the reality in the online dimension. The issue presents a relatively high threat to the mental health of adults, who might feel pressure to get certain beauty procedures done to their face and body to fit the standards of social media. On the other hand, the problem results in adverse outcomes such as loss of confidence, depression, and unhealthy eating habits among teenagers.
In conclusion, this paper analyzed how several aspects of social media, besides the general negativity spread in the online sphere, affect teenagers’ mental health. The analysis determined that through an increased use of social media teenagers are subjected to the risk of insufficient sleep, which potentially could result in an increased level of fatigue and affect teenagers’ school performance. Moreover, the anonymity feature of social media cultivates the cases of cyberbullying, where the offender is instigated by the absence of consequences for his hateful actions. Lastly, the teenager’s mental health is threatened by the unrealistic beauty and lifestyle standards imposed by social media. Bringing awareness to these issues will establish a safe environment for teenagers to share concerns about the pressure of social media with their parents. Solving the abovementioned issues will not fully eliminate all possible threats to teenage mental health. However, it would significantly lower the cases of depression among teenagers and the level of pressure from society on teenagers who already experience struggles with mental health.
Abi-Jaoude, Elia, et al. “Smartphones, Social Media Use and Youth Mental Health.” CMAJ , vol. 192, no. 6, 2020, pp. 1-6. Web.
O’Reilly, Michelle. (2020). “Social Media and Adolescent Mental Health: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Journal of Mental Health, 2020, pp. 200–206. Web.