Thanks to technology, texting, email, video-conferencing and social media are a large part of most people’s lives and a useful platform that allows users to unite, communicate and share experiences, news, images and much more.
However, like most tools, social networks can be helpful if used in the right way, or harmful if misused. It was noted a significant increase of young adults signed up to multiple social media platforms simultaneously, leading to a huge exposure to a society that has the limitless potential to pressurise and convince the population that they should look and act in a specific way in order to fit in.
In 2019 a study of more than 12,000 13 to 16-year-olds was conducted in England, found that using social media more than three times a day predicted poor mental health and wellbeing in teens as it increases the feelings of inadequacy, dissatisfaction, and isolation. In return, these feelings negatively affect people’s mood and worsen the symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and social isolation. With three quarters of the population aged between 14-24 diagnosed with a mental health disorder, and 90 percent of teenagers having a social media account this clearly shows that social media has a part to play on their personal mental health and development.
As an individual you’re told from the start that engagement on your profile is key to ensure that you’re seen as popular within the social media world. Almost like a popularity contest in schools, we’re all fixated by the number of followers, likes, comments, and shares that a single post must get. With 90% of young adults on social media, it shows that we are teaching the youth today that this is the image, and behaviour that we need to show to remain popular. With Instagram giving users the ability to remove the likes figure for others to see from posts, it just clarifies that there is a large issue here that needs to be addressed and that the fixation of a ‘successful’ post is top priority.
The adolescence period is a vital time frame of anyone’s life. It’s the time when you determine who you are as a person and your individuality within the world. Social media has a great impact on this. On social media everyone is so fixated on their image and whether others will like what they post. We’re all constantly exposed to what society believes is the ideal body type, constantly comparing ourselves to unrealistic standards, and going to levels of manipulating the image on photoshop to ensure that our figure fits the ‘ideal image’ of what our bodies ‘should’ look like. Given that three quarters of mental health problems are established in people by the age of 24, it is vital that we discuss and resolve this issue of body image and perception in social media.
With 10 per cent of teens reported being bullied on social media and many others subjected to offensive comments, social media platforms are hotspots for spreading hate, lies and abuse that can leave lasting emotional scars on individuals and their families. The question we should be asking ourselves is, is it worth it? With everything that has happened on social media over the past few years we are still allowing people to influence and determine what our bodies should look like and how we should act, just because that body type looks ‘better’ and that style of outfit and pose is currently ‘trending’; we should completely forget about individuality and allow others to control our lives on social media, making out that they have the ‘perfect lives’ and the amount of likes and followers should determine our popularity within this world. Let’s get individuality back into our lives.
As a collective, putting pressure on ourselves because of social media can have negative effects. Anxiety, body dysmorphia and depression are the most common mental health disorders caused by social media. For me, social media seems so poisonous at times, bragging about what you have, making your life seem better than it is because you’re actually posting what you want to show off, and sometimes you can be publishing information out to the world that shouldn’t be aired. Why can’t social media be a healthy place to be in? We’re all so keen to place our own opinions onto a post, yet most of the time, if it was said in person, those negative comments wouldn’t be published because we would not have the screen to hide behind.
Take a break from the screen, live in the moment, don’t worry about posting content that everyone’s posting or what you believe they’d like to see; post what you want to post. Empathy requires that we slow down and patiently consider another person—something that may seem difficult to achieve with an overload of social media posts and rapid-fire responses to content. When technology is your servant rather than your master, it will help you keep in touch with your friends and family and even draw you closer to them, so don’t allow social media to control you.