According to SMT, an average person spends nearly 2 hours on social media everyday and this duration spent on social is expected to only increase as platforms develop even further.
Facebook is the leading social networking site, with more than 1.2 billion global active users every month. The site’s popularity is followed closely by MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn and Bebo. The latest statistics show that around 42% of online adults use multiple social networking sites. Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of social media users are under the age of 30, although the number of older users is on the rise.
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Since social media has advanced so rapidly and deeply impacted the social fibre and relational connections it’s essential to explore its potential consequences on one’s emotional and mental health. Social media can be a positive tool to help individuals develop and grow but it can also impact young individuals’ emotional and mental health negatively.
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From an optimistic perspective, we have been able to establish enhanced connectivity and extended globalisation due to social media. Some research has found that social media can be a resource for teens to find social support when they are struggling with life issues, and that they can use the different online platforms as a way to express themselves.
Social media doesn’t necessarily take us out of the real world, instead it can be used to revive and preserve relationships with other people. There is an incredible number of like-minded people who can connect quickly and easily. According to a research presented in the journal The British Psychological Society, the students who experience low self-esteem can benefit from social media and its capability to interact and build a rapport with others that can help to deal with the setbacks in a healthy manner.
Social media greatly facilitates socialisation. According to a research presented by Dr. Larry D. Rosen at the 119th annual American Psychological Association, social media can help in developing social skills in introverted adolescents as shy individuals tend to feel safer behind the screen. These teenagers are adapting to be great virtual empathisers towards the fellow individuals.
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It is believed that the more time young adults spent on social media the more likely they were to have problems sleeping and experience symptoms of depression. Additionally, a survey conducted by UK, on social media use and its effects, found that 53% of participants said social media sites had changed their behaviour, while 51% of these said the change had been negative.
Social media is proven to be highly addictive in certain cases. A research on the psychological characteristics, personality and social media use, according to Nottingham Trent University, concludes that “it may be plausible to speak specifically of ‘Facebook Addiction Disorder’…because addiction criteria, such as neglect of personal life, mental preoccupation, escapism, mood modifying experiences, tolerance and concealing the addictive behaviour, appear to be present in some people who use [social media platforms] excessively.”
Comparison with Others
Even though social media was initiated with the motive to connect people and bring them closer, today it has become a source of comparision. It has turned into an indicator of how we measure up to others and this is a concern for youngsters who are associated through the educational system to review themselves in comparison with their peers. This can result in “passive use” of social media where we look at other’s pictures and measure their lives with our own, which can be awful for our psychological wellness.
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
A pervasive apprehension where you tend to feel persuaded to do what everyone else is doing to create a sense of belonging. These individuals also fear that they would miss out on “having fun” with their social media connections. This can invoke anxiety and self-doubts in social media users like Facebook and Instagram.
Extensive use of social networks can have a negative impact on personal well being. This is particularly relevant when it comes to sleep disturbance. According to several studies the screen’s light can effect the quality of sleep in an individual. Regardless of whether its the screen light resulting in reduced sleep or the habitual obsession that influences individuals to check their mobiles, inadequate sleep can greatly affect one’s mental health.
This does not recommend quitting social media usage altogether in this growing era of digitisation but finding the right balance through healthy usage is the key. Also, one thing is certain; our use of social networking sites is unlikely to fade anytime soon.
Infographics: Average Daily Time Spent on Social Media
Infographic source: MediaKix.com