How Social Media Affects Mental Health and How to Avoid It

Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.

There’s a side of how social media affects up negatively but not many are aware of it. There have been multiple researches done where it says that people are most likely to suffer from mental health issues the more time you spend on social media. Not everything about social media is bad as it does bring us some positivity but many still also suggest that social media can be the causes of many health issues such as depression, which is known to be one of the big problems faced by the people in this era. 

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Even according to a British Psychological Society, approximately 90 percent of teenagers are on social media. Constantly seeing what their peers are doing on a day-to-day basis can be damaging to their mental health. That’s why it’s important to consider in detail how social media affects mental health.

It can be said that the true relationship between social media and mental health is still relatively new where studies and researches are still going on and are constantly changing due to the complexity of the issue. While there have been certain studies that point out the positive aspects and outcomes of our engagement with social media, but there is also a growing base of research that seems to oppose an opposite view of it. Regardless, the impact of social media has on us individuals or even communities and it is something that shouldn’t and can’t be ignored.

The rapid use of social media which affects our mental health can eventually lead people to depression. Social media nowadays is said to be one of the basic need for everyone. The more the time people engage with social media, the higher the risks they are likely to confront such as lack of sleep, low self-esteem, and an increase in depression or anxiety. The more emotionally invested they are in one site in particular, the more pressure and anxiety they may experience to be available and up-to-date at all times.

Just how many of the same person that we know have their own social media account. You could say that everyone now would at least have three social media and it is likely rare to find someone that does not own any of these social platforms.

Spending time with other people is one of the best ways for psychological well-being and protection against mental health issues. This generation of young people grow up with smartphones where they are not spending much time or interacting face-to-face with their friends and family. The influence of social media can be exhausting too. For instance, a fight with friends can be documented online for hours or days after the incident.

As people are always engaging with social media every minute or every hour, they tend to share everything they have on their mind whether in Twitter, Facebook or even Instagram. Even when they face a problem, they no longer seek help from someone face-to-face but instead they might ask for help through their social media.

This happens because some feel wary to ask help from their parents, friends or other professionals for advice. In result, they will turn to their social media where they have hundreds of friends they could ask help from. Indeed they will be able to get a lot of help from there but what they do not realise the problem when they seek advices from the social networks, people give poor advices and they are also often misguided.

Indeed there are many professionals who also uses social media as they find it as an easier platform where they can reach out to others more effectively. But sometimes, there are those who gives advices on what they think is best but it is not always the right thing just because they think it’s good for them. Different people take on different ways in helping themselves. An advice that’s been given to you will probably not work on you and you will keep on blaming yourself on why it does not feel helpful.

Let’s take for instance that when you ask about an issue regarding your life and you want some advices for it, you would tweet or post a status in Facebook hoping that your followers will respond to it. The advices that was given to you that supposedly could help you, did not work on you. You will then keep on thinking and finding other ways that will be able to help you but then you will be stressed out when things don’t work your way. This will slowly damage your mental health.

Cyberbullying has become a concern of parents for their children. Strangers, even friends, are able to hide behind the screen and say things they often wouldn’t be able to face-to-face. People are most likely to often encounter fights on Facebook, subtweeting on Twitter and hurtful comments on Instagram. These tactics are often used just for the purpose of putting down others.

Common forms of bullying in these social networks are either name-calling, spreading gossip and rumours, and circulating pictures that could probably be an embarrassment or hurtful for the victim.

It was discovered that the most common strategies people usually use to cope with cyberbullying were passive, such as blocking the sender, ignoring or avoiding messages, and protecting personal information. They tended to believe that little could be done to prevent or reduce cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is also the cause of depression but however, people still do not see the importance and the relationship on how their actions may affect someone. They do not even consider what the other person feels and go on in doing what satisfy themselves. The worse case is that excessive cyberbullying can lead someone to suicidal. Many have been victims and many also has ended their life due to the harassment they receive from social media.

People could take a break from social media but still the feelings of being harassed, being verbally abused stays within the person as it as damaged a certain part inside themselves. Depending on each individuals, recovering from being mentally abused can take up many years or they may even not recover from it. That is how serious this matter is and how people should start to be aware of it. Literally anyone could suffer from depression.

You may see people posting happy things on their social media, like they are not going through any hardship but that’s just a cover for them to not let others bring them down even more when there are already suffering. It is saddening that there are still others who cannot stand to see people live happily with their life and will always want to interfere with it by spreading hateful comments, rumours or anything negative and making sure that there are also other people in doing so.

It is common for teens, especially girls, to experience pressure to appear perfect online. The need to appear to have perfect hair or skin, perfect figure by being skinny or fit, to have the perfect group of friends or the need to get the right amount of likes can consume teens. Not meeting these invisible standards can cause self-loathing and self-doubt. Social comparison, loneliness and jealousy can result when friends on social media appear more popular and attractive or on a glamorous vacation, which can trigger depressive feelings.

The comparisons that we engage in while using social media is one of the negative impacts that happens in our life. Comparisons tend to lower our self-esteem and make us go towards unhealthy feelings and behaviours. Though many teens know that their peers share only their highlight reels on social media, it’s very difficult to avoid making comparisons. Everything from physical appearance to life circumstances to perceived successes and failures are under the influences of social media.

Making comparison is such an unhealthy behaviour because it makes us restless when we see somebody else having a better life or seeing them always getting what they want so easily but you instead have to struggle in achieving for what you wish for. Constantly making these comparisons will eventually turn you into an ungrateful person because you will always think that you do not have enough, that you still lack in many things. Hence, this will lead to you in having low self-esteem and continuously having jealousness buried deep inside of you.

Some tend to take a break from social media because they do not want to get caught up in all these fairytales that are portrayed online and just want to have some quality time with their family and this is actually a good start if you feel the need to find yourself back. Comparisons can also be made in real life but it does not affect us as much on what we see online because we know that there are hundreds or thousands more people who are living a better life than we are. Making them as an inspiration would be good for us to strive further but it is the comparisons that we make between them and us is what damages our mental health. Take a step away from social media and only then you will probably realize that your own life has its own meaning and it doesn’t have to be carried out the same way as others.

Even in Malaysia, there has been a significant rise in those with depression. It was also predicted by the Malaysian Mental Health Association that depression will be the number one disability by 2020. How scary is that when realizing that it is only two years from now and how saddening is that this issue is still not recognized and taken serious.

Many Malaysians are unaware that they are experiencing depression. This is likely due to the fact that mental health issues still remains a taboo within Malaysia. Like many Asian societies, we are often taught from young to keep a stiff upper lip and hide our emotions. Malaysia is known as an islamic country and because of that, most people who attempt to get help always fail because of the stigma attached to mental illness among muslims. If you are in need of treatment, then it means that there might be something wrong with your faith in the religion in the first place.

Something that can be related to this issue has happened before here itself in Malaysia. For instance, Arlina Arshad or more popularly known as Arlina Banana was one of the cyberbullying victim. Although Arlina claimed that she was diognosed with depression, most citizens did not take serious of it and said that she was an “attention-seeker” trying to ask sympathy. Also because of that, people had always ridicule her physical appearance on social media.

With the constant cyberbullying she was getting by the netizens, she had stated through twitter about her intention of ending her life. And a few moments after that, she ended her final tweet with the removal of her account. A number of netizens made baseless and insensitive comments about her intentions. They also made disparaging comments about her physical appearance and her state of mind. They called her stupid, and uttered religious rhetoric and urged her to make good on her threats.

These mental health issues are similar to physical illness where it is not something one wills or requests. Although Arlina received a huge backlash of her actions, but there is good that came out of this incident is the realisation by many of us in mental health provision that we have not done enough to push awareness about mental illness and where people can find help.

If I were to relate this matter with my personal experience, I could say that social media has made me have low self-esteem and has always made me feel insecure about myself. I have never encountered a serious problem regarding depression but at a certain point, social media does have a way of making me feel down on things that I used to not even pay attention to.

A few of the things that have constantly been going around in my mind when using social media is that I always tend to feel jealous and insecure of other pretty girls and always comparing them with myself. For instance, I’m always asking myself “Why can I not have fair skin like them?”, “Why can’t I afford buying pretty clothes like them?”. These questions mingle in my mind over and over again until it makes me feel ungrateful with what I have now.

When seeing a lot of other people living their luxurious life, it made me feel pressured to fit in with them because I also wanted to look pretty and wear nice clothes, I also wanted to go travelling around the world. At certain points, I knew that I am not as rich of them, I know that my family cannot afford to always go on vacations to other countries so it sometimes made me feel ashamed of myself for not being able to afford in doing what others are doing. Another bad habit that I had was that I would have always stalk others’ profiles by just scrolling through them and in the end making me envy them even more.

Other than that, I also sometimes seek help and ask opinions from my friends on social media, as it feels awkward to ask help from my family because there are some things in which I wish to keep away from my family knowing because I considered it to a part of my privacy. Although I’ve never really taken serious of the advices given through social media but it does sometimes help me in clarifying certain things that I am uncertain of and has given me the ability to think of the issues that I’ve never pay attention to whether the good or bad.

In my opinion, social media certainly plays a big role for our mental health and it also sometimes depends on the person themselves on how they want to control their engagement with social media and how far will they let it control them. The lack of awareness regarding mental health is why this matter is still not taken up seriously and why there are still many who do not realize the importance of it.

In conclusion, the relationship between social media and mental health can lead a person into having depression, anxiety and many other health issues. As we live in a era where it is impossible to part ways with technology, then we need to pay more attention to what we consume when using these social platforms. We must have the ability to differentiate between the good and the bad. The responsible is not being upheld only by individuals ourselves but society, community, the government also plays a big role in solving up this issue.

It’s time to take note on these mental health issues and spread awareness on it in order to be able to help those in need. To let them know that there will always be help waiting for them and that they are not alone in having to overcome this disease. Start small and we could already be making a difference in this society. 

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