Social Media Effects on Mental Health

Ava Francis-Hall

Social media has taken this generation by storm. Teens are constantly viewing the world through Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix, and many more. Because so many are being sucked into this phenomenon, their mental health is taking a toll due to the quick and constant access to the various sites.

Social media has a large demand from teens, however, influencers with large followings put out glorified personas online, making their lives look perfect. Because they have large followings, followers see what they post, see that they’re happy, connect it to the definition of happiness, and do everything in their power to live a life like that. This obviously isn’t healthy as a younger demographic is entering the world of social media and are wanting to imitate the lives they see on social media. 

A popular YouTube star is Emma Chamberlain, a 17 year-old Bay Area native with 7.5 million subscribers on YouTube. Her content can be described as funny, awkward, and sarcastic, which is why she has gained lots of success in such a short amount of time. Chamberlain recently moved to Los Angeles, and fans have noticed a change in her character since the move. She doesn’t post as often, and even when she does, she is seemingly a different person now compared to before her YouTube “fame”. Chamberlain has talked about her mental health on her channel before, so it’s apparent that her success is taking a large toll on her well-being.  

Chamberlain definitely puts up a facade in her videos, as I have witnessed first-hand. I met her while I was shopping in Union Square over the summer with my sisters and mom. At the time, I enjoyed watching her videos, so I went up to her and asked for a picture. Her response was short and seemed kind of forced, making me feel as if I burdened her for asking. I understand she was in a public setting so she maybe didn’t want to take pictures, but the way she chose to react was unpleasant and showed who she was away from social media. 

“Social media takes a large toll on mental health and I recently took a social media break. It was one of the best experiences of my life because I got really in tune with myself and my family and like what’s really important,” said Novato High junior Josie Shaw. “You have these standards to uphold that you see everyday that are really hard to keep up with. It gives this message that you have to be perfect. If you look at someone’s Instagram, that’s not their real life; that’s what they want it to be. It’s interesting how you can brand yourself how you want on social media and how you can portray yourself to be absolutely perfect. Just know it’s not real.”

Not only do certain creators have an effect on other people’s mental health, but the amount of phone usage also plays a large part impacting young people’s developing minds. 

According to a study conducted by San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge, “the incidence of major depression that 12 to 17 year-olds had experienced over the previous year increased 52 percent from 2005 to 2017. The percent in people 18 to 25 rose 63 percent from 2009 to 2017, and the rate of those same young adults contemplating suicide or acting on it went up 71 percent from 2008 to 2017.”

Novato math teacher Suzi Shepard shared her thoughts on the issue. 

“I think in all honesty, it depends on how much someone uses it. It depends on what sites they’re going to;  are they going to a site to reconnect with their friends, with their relatives or are they posting things so they can seek validation so that they can try to become popular? I also feel like the perception is we feel more connected when we’re online, but all the studies that have been recently done show the opposite,” said Shepard. 

Research shows that the usage of technology before bed can result in insufficient sleep. Lack of sleep is a common characteristic of depression. The light your phone gives off before sleeping affects you greatly. 

The Harvard Medical School conducted an experiment that was “comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to green light of comparable brightness. The blue light suppresses melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours).”

The blue and green lights that phones emit don’t only suppress our sleep, but it triggers our central nervous system centers for the awake state, directly affecting a part of the nervous system called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN). The SCN generates our circadian rhythm, whichdetermines if you are a morning or night person. The light has a major impact on both sleep quantity and quality.

Other detriments that social media causes include obsessing on likes, dealing with cyberbullying, and comparing oneself to what they see online. 

Social media is making an impact on people’s social and interaction skills, and is restricting human connection. A theory from Theresa Nguyen explains that “Digital natives — young people who have been around computers all their lives — are so accustomed to communicating via texting that having leisurely conversations face-to-face or even on the phone feels awkward.”

Even though social media comes with a fair share of benefits, it equally comes with negative outcomes for one’s health and overall well being. If the use of social media and technology aren’t regulated, the internet will continue to control and impact future generations.