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Does Social Media Make You Sad?

How social media links to mental health issues

Have you ever experienced a feeling of emptiness and hopelessness as you continued to idly scroll through your social media feed?  While social media has radically revolutionised how we connect with one another, it's essential to recognise that a darker reality exists beyond the carefully curated feeds and filtered images. In fact, research has demonstrated that excessive use of social media can trigger depression and anxiety, leading us down a rabbit hole of insecurity, loneliness, and detachment.

How social media is fuelling a rise in depression

In today's digital age, social media platforms are a constant and pervasive presence in our daily lives. Whilst digital platforms have revolutionised relationships and communications, there have also been links made to depression and other growing mental health issues. The University of Pennsylvania conducted a study that showed, 30 minutes a day on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat can increase feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

This alarming trend can be attributed to a number of factors. The appearance of perfection that social media can convey is a significant factor, as social media sites have become a platform for users to curate their lives- showcasing only the best moments and experiences. This can create unrealistic expectations which can result in low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy. Social media, in the words of social media guru Brian Solis "has created the airbrushed life."

Another factor that contributes to this connection between social media and depression is the constant comparison and unrealistic expectations. Users are bombarded with images of "perfect" bodies, flawless skin, and exotic vacations, leaving us feeling envy and resentment. Furthermore, social media often encourages a culture of validation-seeking and "likes", leading to feelings of disappointment and low self-esteem when our posts do not receive the desired attention.

However, It's important to keep in mind, that there are other factors contributing to the rise in depression and other mental health disorders. It is a complex issue that is influenced by numerous factors. Nonetheless, it is evident that social media can aggravate current mental health issues and have negative psychological repercussions. We must be aware of the potential implications that social media has on our present lives, and take action to help prevent any negative effects.

An urgent call for social media companies to take accountability

Social media companies have risen to prominence in the modern world, connecting millions of users worldwide. However, these companies must recognise that great power comes with great responsibility! They must recognise how their services have a detrimental impact on the mental health of their users.

Studies have shown that the design of social media platforms can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety. The research conducted by The Royal Society for Public Health stated that...

"Social media companies utilise algorithms that amplify engagement and keep users hooked to their platforms for as long as possible"

This is achieved by providing endless scrolling feeds and notifications that keep users engaged and consuming content for longer periods of time. While these features might seem harmless, they can contribute to addictive behaviour and trigger negative mental health outcomes. Furthermore, social media firms frequently fail their efforts to effectively control their platforms, allowing damaging content like bullying, hate speech, and disinformation to spread. This content can disturb viewers and exacerbate existing mental health issues.

As a result, it is imperative that social media companies accept accountability for the effects that the platforms have on users' mental health. Designing platforms with user wellness over engagement metrics is part of this obligation. Companies can accomplish this by adding features like time restrictions, content warnings, and  tools to monitor usage. They can also provide resources and support such as  hotlines, support groups and educational resources, for users who are battling mental health issues.

Social media companies must take a proactive stance in combating harmful content on their platforms by researching the mental health impact of social media, collaborating with experts, and investing in mental health initiatives. Ultimately, it is their responsibility to promote good mental health and mitigate negative impacts. These companies must step up and ensure that their platforms support, rather than hinder, good mental health.

Steps to take for improving mental health on social media

While social media companies have a responsibility to create a safe and supportive online space, individuals/ you must also play a role in promoting positive mental health practises. Here are some steps that you can take to better your mental health on social media:

1) Have a supportive and positive online environment - Follow and engage with people who have a positive influence on you and who are supportive of you. Remember to always pay attention to how you feel after interacting with others on social media. If you notice negative feelings or a decrease in your mood, consider taking a break or limiting your interactions.

2) Practice Self-Care - It's essential to recognise when social media is impacting your mental health, so set usage limits and take time to care for your mental and emotional well-being.

3) Educate Yourself - Understanding the impact of social media on mental health is essential in promoting good habits. Stay informed about current research and seek out resources and educational materials to learn how to use social media more positively

4) Seek Support - if you’re struggling with your mental health, reach out for help. Talk to a mental health professional, friend, or family member. Also you can always refer yourself to therapy by the NHS.

Always remember to not be afraid to ask for help when you need it because YOU ARE NEVER ALONE!

As we have seen, social media has become an integral part of our daily lives, connecting us with friends, family, and communities worldwide. However, it's important to recognise the darker reality that excessive use of social media can trigger depression and anxiety, leading to feelings of insecurity, loneliness, and detachment. But we don't have to let social media control us. By recognising its potential dangers and promoting positive mental health habits, we can build a healthier online community that supports and uplifts one another. Let's hold social media companies accountable and make positive changes on an individual level. Remember, social media can be a tool for good if used responsibly and mindfully. Let's harness its power to bring us closer together, rather than letting it drive us apart


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