English Essay Writing Topic – Ill Effects of Social Media: A cause of Anxiety and Depression

 
The majority of people in today’s world love to spend their time on social media. Most of them consider their smartphones as their virtual companion. In recent years, the craze of staying updated with the social media world has immensely increased. Research has shown that the excessive use of social media has adversely affected the psychological well-being of children. Additionally, the COVID-19 outbreak in the world, followed by the nationwide lockdowns and the closure of schools, has forced children to stay indoors. This situation has worked as a trigger for young minds. 


 

Due to limited access to outdoor activities, children became more addicted to social media as it was their only alternative to stay connected with the outside world. According to many studies, social media has some serious consequences such as substance abuse, bullying, low self-esteem, self-harming tendencies, and poor body-image concerns. It can also increase the risk of developing several mental health problems, including anxiety disorder and depression. But before understanding how social media affects children’s psychological health, let’s know first what social media is. 

 

What is Social Media?

In simple words, social media is a virtual platform where one can build virtual networks or virtually connect with different types of people by sharing their thoughts, ideas, information, and more. It is a computer-based technology that has gained immense popularity among every age group. It is the only platform that allows people to connect and engage with their respective target audience – even if they belong to another side of the world. 

 

People usually use different social media platforms to share pictures, significant life events, and their thoughts on various topics. But many people use social media as a professional tool to fulfill their professional requirements. For example, a small business owner can reach his target audience and promote his products via social media platforms. It can help him in extending his business in the future. Additionally, many students use social media for their educational requirements, while others use it only for entertainment purposes. In the last few years, social media has become an integral part of our communication process. While it offers numerous advantages and benefits in this ever-competitive world, it can have a lot of serious consequences when used excessively or for harmful purposes. Here are some of the most common uses of social media:

 

The common uses of Social Media 

  • Communicating with existing or new people
  • Connecting with the target audience and promoting businesses
  • Sharing pictures, videos, and life events
  • Collaborating with other brands or businesses
  • Advertisement purposes
  • Sharing thoughts, ideas, and opinions on various personal or public issues
  • Staying updated with the latest news, trends, and technologies
  • Providing customer service or support
  • Watching photos and videos posted by other people (Entertainment purposes)
  • Educational purposes

 

Relationship between Social Media and Mental Health

As we all know, human beings are social creatures, and they seek companionship in every possible way they can. The connections or bondings we make during our lifetime play a pivotal role in our psychological well-being and overall happiness. In today’s world, social media has become the only platform that allows us to communicate with different types of people. It provides us with a virtual and versatile platform where we can socially connect with others. And this helps us to relieve stress and anxiety, boosts our self-confidence, prevents us from feeling lonely, and most importantly, offers comfort and happiness. But anything that becomes an addiction because of extreme dependability can be harmful to one’s physical and mental health. This theory goes the same with social media as well. 

 

Nowadays, many of us depend on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to find new people and make new connections with them. This practice may have many benefits, but we have to remember one thing that social media can never be the replacement for real-world communications or bondings. In-person communications can trigger happy hormones in us, and we eventually feel stress-free, healthier, and more positive. But social media is a technology, and it can never provide the same benefit in-person communication does. 

 

Researchers say that spending too much time using social media can negatively affect our emotional health. A recent 2020 NCBI research paper has found a strong link between excessive use of social media and the increased risk of developing mental health problems. It explained that children who excessively use social media tend to develop anxiety and depression symptoms during their teenage. The time spent on social media plays a significant role in developing such psychological issues. Another 2021 study claimed that people who deactivated their Facebook accounts felt less stressed than those who remained active on Facebook. Many studies have found that social media exposure has increased for kids in the last few years, especially after the COVID-19 outbreak in the world. 

 

The Facebook Whistleblower scandal in 2021 has revealed that social media platforms are unhealthy for children’s psychological well-being. The documents have claimed that image-sharing platforms like Instagram and Snapchat negatively affect kids’ body image and self-esteem. Such platforms often create impractical views about people’s physical looks by promoting unrealistic beauty filters and effects. These documents have also revealed that many children and teens have developed body dysmorphia after using those beauty filters excessively. Body dysmorphia refers to a psychological condition in which a person feels anxious about any perceived flaw or defect in their physical appearance. This situation has led to parents being more concerned about how social media platforms and increased screen time will affect their kids or teens later in life. 

 

Effects of Social Media on young minds

We may feel great staying up-to-date and keeping in touch with friends, but excessive use of social media can also trigger anxiety, loneliness, depression, and other emotional issues. Children who use social media are more likely to experience peer pressure, followed by many mental health problems. Social media has numerous negative impacts on our life and society. It affects kids’ mental health very easily due to their vulnerability regarding certain developmental aspects of life. Let’s know how it negatively affects kids. 

 

1. Anxiety 

Research has shown that increased screen time increases the risk of developing anxiety symptoms in children. Kids who spend more than three hours using the internet tend to hesitate while sharing their problems with others. They become more curious about knowing other people’s activities. They often hesitate to spend time with their friends and family. They gradually become moody and feel irritated and isolated more often. And this overall situation leads to them developing anxiety disorders. 
 

2. Depression

A study conducted by American Psychological Association (APA) has found that kids who spend more time using electronic gadgets and don’t involve themselves in outdoor sports, exercise, or social interactions are more likely to experience depression-related symptoms. The study claimed that kids who spent more time in non-screen activities are more likely to be happier. Similarly, children who spend five hours daily using the internet and social media are two times more likely to be diagnosed with social media depression. Social media depression is a kind of emotional disturbance that a child may experience when they feel inferior in their social media world. 
 

3. Poor body image

Social media often set unrealistic beauty standards and create unreal views about physical appearance. Due to children’s vulnerability, they easily become victims of social media peer pressure. Using beauty filters and effects while capturing or sharing their photos negatively impacts their body image. 

4. Cyberbullying

In the last few years, cyberbullying has become one of the most common terms for social media users. Studies revealed that young girls are more likely to be targeted than boys while using social media. Researchers have found a significant relationship between the experience of cyberbullying and mental health problems. Children or teens who experience cyberbullying have an increased risk of developing several psychological issues, including depression, anxiety, lower self-esteem, social isolation, and suicidal thoughts. 
 

5. Lower self-esteem

Social media is a virtual platform where one can know about others without communicating with them. Many people follow their favorite celebrities on social media platforms. They often try to imitate their favorite celebrity’s looks. Unfortunately, this imitation makes them feel insecure about their physical appearance. It affects their self-confidence and self-esteem. 
 

6. Internet addiction

According to a Digital Wellbeing survey, excessive use of social media can transform into addiction, followed by other psychological disorders. The survey showed that children and teens who excessively use the internet experience negative impacts on their interpersonal relationships, daily activities, and overall well-being. 

 

7. Sleep deprivation 

Screen time at night can lead to a child developing sleeping disorders. Kids aged between 5-10 years should have a sound sleep of 9-11 hours every night. Using electronic gadgets before bedtime can disrupt their sleep cycle. Many studies have found that social media is one of the leading causes of sleep deprivation in children. Additionally, inadequate sleep can cause other psychological issues in children, including behavioral disorders, depression, poor concentration, lack of energy, and poor academic performance. 
 

8. Social isolation 

Children who spend most of their time using mobile phones are more likely to suffer from social isolation. Being engaged in screen activities, they often prevent themselves from involving in other social activities. When children or teenagers see pictures or videos of others on social media, they start to compare their lifestyle with others. And this comparison makes them feel more anxious. This feeling is known as ‘fear-of-missing-out’ (FOMO). It can be a leading cause of children feeling socially isolated. 

 

Apart from the above-mentioned negative effects of social media on young minds, it can have some other serious mental health consequences, including:

 

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Concentration issues
  • Less physical activity
  • Substance abuse
  • Self-harming tendencies/suicidal thoughts

 

What are anxiety and depression?

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common negative effects of social media on children. Moreover, these two mental health problems can be observed in almost every child nowadays. These psychological disorders can have more serious consequences if not treated when needed. Thus, it is important to first know about these two psychological issues. 

 

1. What is anxiety? 

In simple words, anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress-related events. It is a feeling of fear and worries that we experience while going through stress. But in extreme cases, it can disrupt our emotional well-being. People with anxiety-related issues have excessive and intense worry and fear about simple everyday events. American Psychological Association (APA) has explained that anxiety can be characterized by a feeling of worrying thoughts and intense fear. This feeling often comes with a few physical changes, including shivering, sweating, and increased blood pressure. If a person experiences anxiety regularly, it might become a psychological disorder that may require medical attention. 

 

2. What is depression?

Depression, medically known as major depressive disorder, is a very common mental health problem that can be observed in people of every age group. It adversely affects a person’s thought process, behavior, emotional well-being, and daily activities. Many mental health specialists consider depression a kind of mood disorder.  A depressed person tends to experience a persistent feeling of sadness without any proper reason and has a loss of interest in daily activities. It is quite normal for a person to feel depressed at times due to any significant life event. But if the psychological condition becomes chronic, it can be a serious medical concern. However, anxiety and depression should be treated with proper medical supervision by mental health professionals. 

 

Ways to treat childhood depression and anxiety due to excessive social media use

Researchers argue that depression and anxiety are very common among children due to social media exposure. If such mental health conditions become chronic, parents should immediately consult with a child therapist. Talking therapies (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) are proved to be one of the most effective methods to treat childhood depression and anxiety. But there are other few ways with the help of which parents can treat their children or teens’ depression and anxiety. Here are some effective ways parents can help their children regarding such matters: 

 

  • Use parental control tools to limit your children’s access to every social media app you use and try to track how much time your child spends on social media every day.
  • Educate your children about the potential disadvantages of social media as it can help them reduce their screen time on their own. 
  • Create a friendly environment at home so that your child can share their feelings with you without any hesitation. 
  • Set a routine for your children regarding how much time they can use an electronic gadget. 
  • Never let your children use mobile phones before bedtime. Turn off mobile phones and internet-related devices and keep them in another room. 
  • Talking about mental health with your children is extremely important to educate them about the importance of mental health awareness. Frequent discussions about mental health problems, their symptoms, and treatments can help your children in building coping skills. 
  • Try to engage your child in non-screen activities. You can plan get-togethers with family and friends, do yoga or exercises with your children, or join them in their outdoor playing activities. 
  • Try to prevent yourself from checking your phone every 5 minutes in front of your children. 
  • Encourage your children to spend more time with their offline friends and be involved in social activities.
  • Keep a check on your children whenever they use mobile phones. It will keep you updated about their activities. Similarly, you can help them if they experience any kind of cyberbullying while using social media. 
  • If your child or teen is suffering from anxiety or depression due to their excessive use of social media, it is better to consult with a mental health specialist as soon as possible. Only a therapist can understand the mental health condition in detail and help your child to cope or deal with such problems effectively. 

 

Takeaway

In the last few years, social media has become the part-and-parcel of our daily life. Additionally, the usage of the internet among children and teens is gradually increasing day by day. While it makes one feel connected with the outside world, it has some negative impacts on a child’s mental health. Thus, the parents need to limit their screen time and seek medical help if their children suffer from any mental health problems due to social media use.