Social Media's Noose Over Mental Health
While everyone is busy dealing with coronavirus pandemic, there is another issue that needs to catch public’s attention. We all know how social media made our lives easier. Especially during this hard time, when we all had to stay at home, we were able to connect to our friends and family with ease. But what if social media is killing us?
Social media usage in Singapore is one of the highest in Asia with 79% (as of 2019) of the population being active users. Of this, 79% of the population, a large number of users are teenagers. Of course, this number would have definitely increased last year, given the coronavirus factor and the lockdown.
A recent research shows how using social media more than 3 hours a day could have bad effects on teenagers’ mental health, particularly causing internalizing problems. Internalizing issues include, but are not limited to, anxiety and depression. The study mainly focuses on teens and young adults. Older people seemed rarely affected and did not show a substantial increase in depression and suicidal thoughts. This could be because older adults may have social lives that are more stable.
What is the deal?
Likes Factor and Cyberbullying
People use social media, say Instagram, to reach more people. Consider this, a teenager posts their photo and expects to get a lot of likes and comments. But to their disappointment, they are not able to reach much audience or maybe the audience they reach out to never engage with their content. This make them feel bad about themselves, even though it is completely normal. Another factor that may make teenagers using social media vulnerable to psychological discontent is cyberbullying. Harmful bullying behaviour such as “posting rumours, threats, sexual remarks, a victims’ personal information, or pejorative labels” can lead to negative emotions and originality of suicidal conception.
Comparison and Envy Factor
It is also evident that people browsing social media tend to compare their lives with others which is mentally draining. This, then, levels up to the jealousy factor. Already have got envious, people then incline to posting similar stuff, which may be beyond their means. Do you reckon going to an expensive restaurant just because you saw someone, who may not even be your friend, visiting that fancy place on social media? Having spent more than what you are supposed to, you now have lesser budget for the rest of the month, thereby causing stress.
Having inadequate amount of sleep is another factor. Sleep is one of the most important things to stay healthy, both mentally and physically. Most of the people check out their phones on bed, just before going to sleep. Steaming from the posts they just saw from social media, triggering stress and jealousy, keeps them from sleeping. What’s more? The light from our mobile device can curb the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps us feel tired. Thus, people have hard time to sleep at night, making them feel tired the next day.
What to do?
Obviously, you can’t get disconnect from social media all of a sudden. Try to set a time limit for social applications. Use Apple’s Screen Time or Android’s Digital Wellbeing feature to control yourself. In this free time you just made for yourself, go out with friends and family or do something to divert your mind. Even a simple walk through the park may help!
Feel down, want help?
Samaritans of Singapore Hotline: 1800 221 4444
Institute of Mental Health’s Helpline: (+65) 6389 2222
Singapore Association of Mental Health Helpline: 1800 283 7019
You can also find a list of international helplines here. If someone you know is at immediate risk, call 24-hour emergency medical services.