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What Has Social Media Done to Our Mental Health?

In 2017 in the UK, of those aged 17-19, 10.1% had a probable mental disorder in 2017 which rose to 25.7% in 2022. Could this be linked to the rapid increase of social media users in the UK? With an increase of over 7 million people from 2018 to 2022. Is the increased consumption and penetration of social media content affecting the way a consumer perceives themselves in comparison to influencers? Are we viewing what we see as reality rather than the processes behind this content?

What is mental health?

Mental health relates to our emotional, physiological and social well-being. The health aspect of this relates to the stability we feel within these different aspects. It is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the past week experienced a common mental health problem. These different. mental health problems can range from Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia - as well as many different problems which people across the world are facing on a daily basis. But why has mental health in the UK increased over the years? There are many different theories that can be studied to understand why these health issues have increased. Is it due to raised awareness for these issues which has allowed for more people to be diagnosed correctly? Or are the things we consume on a daily affecting our mental health?

How could social media affect our mental health?

One major link between social media and mental health is image. From social media where we consume images from content creators which are placed to show the highlights of a person's life to our mental health where we see a certain image of ourselves - an image we compare to those we consume on social media. This constant comparison between what we view as reality and our personal reality could be the reason for an increase in mental health problems worldwide.

People feel pressure to live up to the expectations and beauty standards that are set by famous influencers such as the Kardashians who display a false sense of beauty which can trigger body image issues within their audiences. As these trends are constantly changing, people are unable to keep up with the most recent view of the "perfect life" and "perfect image" which doesn't allow people to focus on themselves and the beauty they possess without altering themselves to fit the standards of others.

Does social media have benefits when it comes to mental health?

Through the use of social media, awareness of mental health has increased majorly with different platforms such as TikTok and Instagram becoming a rich source of mass communication for different generations. With more than 2.1 Billion people using Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook worldwide on a daily basis, the reach of these social media platforms is huge when spreading awareness of such topics. One major audience which can be reached by social media is the younger audience where these generations are shown the effects of mental health as well as where to seek help. This produces a more open-minded population of people who are understanding of other people and the mental health problems they may experience. The major effects of mental health on social media can also be shown through the increased use of trigger warnings before videos as a prevention for triggering mental health problems. This is carried out by prefacing videos posted on social media with warnings when the content could trigger different issues within the consumer regarding body dysmorphia, sexual assault and other triggers. But has this increased awareness helped us deal with mental health issues or has social media already produced negative effects on the consumer which are irreversible?

So what is the real issue?

Although social media does have extremely negative effects on consumers and their mental health, the awareness and other positive effects of social media do alleviate some of these issues. The world is moving into a majorly digitally influenced generation which is something the world will have to adapt to. Through the use of social media to spread awareness of how we can deal with these issues, mental health can become a lot more normalised and diagnosed correctly to help people worldwide to manage their health problems.

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