Social media sites have changed the way we communicate. They can help keep contact with old school friends, connect families across countries and help us find people who have things in common with us.
On the other side of it, social media can be harmful and has been described as addictive as cigarettes. It has become so entwined in our lives we can’t ignore it, and the effect it may be having on our mental health – particularly young people.
Seeing the supposedly perfect lives of our friends and family, and being isolated to our computers rather than getting information straight from them directly, we create a more fertile breeding ground for mental health issues. Studies show that more than two hours of social media use a day can lead to an increase in psychological distress. Another study found young people (19 to 32 years) who used seven or more types of social media were three times as likely to experience anxiety and depressive systems. Particularly Instagram was associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and fear of missing out. This overuse could be helped with changes in warnings. Seventy one percent of young people in a RHSP study said they would support having a warning alert once they had used social media for a certain period of time.
We have to be careful about how much stock we put in social media, it is a highly edited place. People posting photos on Instagram can filter their photos to make their skin look flawless. People only post what they want people to see, which doesn’t represent a person entirely accurately. According to a survey almost 7 out of 10 young people would like social media platforms to show when an image has been digitally changed.
In saying this, we have a stunning opportunity here, social media IS so etched into our lives that we can use it improve mental health outcomes in young people. We can post links, create aps and post videos and photos to support and educate people, 80% of young people surveyed supported having these implemented.
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