What are the potential negative effects of social media on health?
Anxiety and depression
The unrealistic expectations set by social media may leave young people with feelings of self-consciousness, low self-esteem and the pursuit of perfectionism which can manifest as anxiety disorders. Use of social media, particularly operating more than one social media account simultaneously, has also been shown to be linked with symptoms of social anxiety.
Drawing on research findings it identifies the potential negative impacts of social media on health as: anxiety and depression, sleep, body image, cyber bullying and fear of missing out.
Sleep and mental health are tightly linked. Poor mental health can lead to poor sleep and poor sleep can lead to states of poor mental health. Sleep is particularly important for teens and young adults due to this being a key time for development.
Numerous studies have shown that increased social media use has a significant association with poor sleep quality in young people.
Body image is an issue for many young people, both male and female, but particularly females in their teens and early twenties. As many as nine in 10 teenage girls say they are unhappy with their body.
There are 10 million new photographs uploaded to Facebook alone every hour, providing an almost endless potential for young women to be drawn into appearance-based comparisons whilst online. Studies have shown that when young girls and women in their teens and early twenties view Facebook for only a short period of time, body image concerns are higher compared to non-users.
Bullying during childhood is a major risk factor for a number of issues including mental health, education and social relationships, with long-lasting effects often carried right through to adulthood. The rise of social media has meant that children and young people are in almost constant contact with each other. The school day is filled with face-to-face interaction, and time at home is filled with contact through social media platforms. There is very little time spent uncontactable for today’s young people. While much of this interaction is positive, it also presents opportunities for bullies to continue their abuse even when not physically near an individual. The rise in popularity of instant messaging apps such as Snapchat and WhatsApp can also become a problem as they act as rapid vehicles for circulating bullying messages and spreading images.
Fear of Missing Out (FoMO)
The concept of the ‘Fear of Missing Out’ (FoMO) is a relatively new one and has grown rapidly in popular culture since the advent and rise in popularity of social media.