To What Extent Does Too Much Social Media Cause Depression and Anxiety?

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Social media is a very common and significant way of networking with people, between those from local to worldwide distances. However, what effect can this have? I am going to be exploring the effects of social media and the link that it has to depression and anxiety (two of the most common mental health illnesses). I want to evaluate whether social media has the potential to cause depression and anxiety to adolescence but also adults as well as considering the opposing views. My primary research was designed to clearly state the views of social media users of all ages, but what I will find interesting is comparing my evidence with secondary findings. But to what extent do I agree that this statement is true? And the end of this analysis I will decide my personal opinion along with justifications to back up my points. Social media is a very important part in my everyday life and I don’t know what ‘everyday life’ would be like, if I was living without it. Personally social media allows me to feel happy but that is not always the case. I’m keen to see the views of others to decide for myself…is too much social media a risk for depression and anxiety?

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Firstly, it’s important to understand, what is social media? Social media can be described as “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking”. The common social media that people use these days are: Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Skype, Tumblr, YouTube, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Dating apps and Facebook Messenger. And it’s possible that some people use them all as well as others which would be a lot to handle. However, social media is not just about keeping in touch with friends and family; but it can be a career, mainly from the very popular application/website called YouTube. There are hundreds and thousands of YouTubers out there who make a living for themselves by producing content and sharing their lives by being active on social media constantly, and many of them have experienced depression. Some YouTubers, for example Shane Dawson (who is 29 years old), he has been a YouTuber for over 10 years with almost 14 million subscribers. Shane has been very open about his experience with depression. In one of his videos he said “some of these kids would be 16 years old making YouTube videos and they become popular…and gain all these followers…give that YouTuber thousands and thousands of dollars…and they buy everything they wanted and there’s nothing left to buy… you get depressed…I found a lot of success with YouTube…but it didn’t make me happier…it made me sadder”

This is just one example of how earning money through social media can make people feel depressed; this shows the potential impact of social media and that it can affect anybody. Although Shane Dawson is talking from his personal experience, this could represent the thoughts of others. If there is one person that can feel depressed because of social media, then there is most likely an abundance of users who feel the same way. Hence why I also want to consider the effect of social media on everybody.

However, I wanted to investigate this further. On the video that Shane Dawson posted, I looked at the comments of the video in order to see what the response was and this could indicate how people felt about it. What was interesting to see is that out of the 16,619 people that commented, some of those comments were from popular YouTubers as well and they seem to agree with some of Shanes points that he addressed. For example, the ‘top’ comment with over 1,300 likes was by somebody named Sawyer Hartman and he has over 1.8 million subscribers on YouTube and he commented “Yup about 110% accurate”.

This implies that what Shane has mentioned, Sawyer can relate to and understand. This further adds to the idea there is a clear link between social media and depression. However, this is only representing the link between YouTube and depression rather than social media generally. Hence why I will consider the effect of all social media on everybody. In addition to this, mental health illnesses can be dangerous and life threatening to human life and those around them. In fact, two-thirds of all suicides are caused by depression.

This is one of the serious risks of having depression as people a taking their own lives. This can have secondary effects on family, friends and loved ones that are close to them, as the death of somebody can be impactful on everyday life and the mental stability of others. Furthermore, mental illnesses can also cause/make diseases worse. Studies show that depression can lead to heart disease, and make it more difficult to recover from heart disease, moreover, could even increase the risk of a heart attack. Therefore, is it good to use social media regularly? I think that keeping healthy mentally is really important and the risk of depression may be possible from the use of social media. Apparently “teenagers are getting more anxious and depressed because of the 24-hour demands of their social media accounts”.

Glasgow University researchers questioned 467 teenagers about their use of social media and their state of mind. Out of this research, they found that many of them felt a pressure to respond immediately to text and posts. In addition, when adults were surveyed the researched suggested that more than half of social media users feel under pressure to use social media, furthermore this survey revealed that “6.9 million adults in the UK feel depressed looking at their friends’ lives on social media, as they compare themselves to them”. Moreover, “56% said they feel pushed to post and share interesting content as well as engaging with other user’s profiles”. Both research on teenagers and adults have similar results; both groups of people feel pressured to use social media and both groups are feeling more depressed and anxious as a result. I found this statement really interesting because I can relate to these teens and adults who have these thoughts. I feel pressured to post to social media and stay active and respond to messages. This is because I have become very invested in apps like Instagram and Snapchat and I want to maintain posting and viewing posts by others; I think of using social media to be a hobby, and when I’m not using these apps for a while, I am more encouraged and pressured to post. Therefore, this could be the reason why other teenagers have these views. In addition, one app that I am very emotionally invested in…is YouTube; I spend hours per day watching YouTube videos and recently it has become a routine of mine, and even a slight addiction. Once a new video has been posted by somebody that I am subscribed to, I instantly watch it. This contributes to the reason why I feel pressure to respond to posts like these.

In which can have an impact of my school studies as I am devoting a lot of my time to social media rather than revision, this generally contributes to me feeling very stressed out and anxious as a result; therefore, again this could be a reason for these views. However, I consider social media to impact my mood in way [both negative but also positive which is something to be considered] Continuing from this is the idea that social media can help depression, or make users feel happier. An author named Cheryl Slavin wrote an article on a website named ‘Healthy Place’ in the article she stated that she finds that social media does cause anxiety for her, however, not all the time. Cheryl finds that some of the news displayed on her social media depresses her and she feels as though she cannot please everyone with her posts [her posts even make some people feel angry] due to opposing political views. In addition, she felt that some posts via her husband may have given her friends a negative perception of herself but also her marriage. This had an effect on her mental thoughts and contributed to her existing anxiety. However, her additional points are compelling because instead these social media platforms can be useful in alleviating her anxiety symptoms. This is because her friends on social media helped her through some of the hardest parts in her life as she suffers will mental illness herself. She believes that the positives of these platforms outweigh the negatives. There I feel as though it’s important to consider the fact that social media can help people with their anxiety/depression and as a result make people feel happier. After reading Cheryl article, I strongly agree with her points that social media has positive and negative impacts and I think that could be the views of many more users besides herself an I. Furthermore, in March 2017 research measuring social media use and depression in young people up to the age of 18 years old. Eleven studies were carried out with other 12,464 participants were included and they found a very small relationship between social interaction and a depressed mood. In fact, data from some studies indicated that young people are likely to turn to the internet for social support. This opposing view seems to be the same for both groups of people [those who are under 18 as well as those other the age of 18, for example Cheryl Slavin] therefore this research portrays the idea that social media may be negative but also positive and overall could be a good thing to have in society.

While doing my online research, I was curious to acknowledge the opinions of the people around me and that know me. Therefore, I created a survey via survey monkey asking a few questions that I feel are relevant and alluring to this topic. I posted the link to the online survey on all my social media. I think that this could be a good way of obtaining valid and reliable results and I would be able to simply collect graphs to represent my data.

Methodology: How I collected my primary research

Firstly, I had to decide what I wanted my survey to be about. In order to do this, I studied my topic title and secondary research to decide what questions I wanted to include, as I want them to be comparable to my secondary research to an extent. However, I didn’t want there to be too many questions and have an abundance of information, I’d prefer to have fewer questions with precise succinct results. This is because it would be easier to analyze the results and come up with a clear outcome as a result of doing this.

Soon after, I came up with six questions that I wanted to include; that I think could help provide evidence for my topic title. An example of this would be “To what extent do you think that using social media makes you feel depressed or impact your mood in a negative way?” and the participant selects whether they agree, disagree or is not sure. Creating a question like this will allows me to easily analyze the views of the respondent and allows my results to simply answer the question making my conclusion and overall analysis more reliable.

Eventually, after all the planning, I created an account on survey monkey and made my survey asking the following questions:

  1. “How old are you?” The reason why I included this question is because I wanted to know what sort of age groups were answering my questions, as different age groups may have different views. Therefore, if there is a wide range of ages that complete the survey, my evidence is likely to be more reliable.
  2. “How often would you say you spend on social media a day? (this can be any form of social media)” I wanted to include this question because my topic title refers to those who use “too” much social media. Therefore, if a large percentage say that they spend more than 5 hours a day on social media and there is a similar correlation to those who think social media affects their mood negatively, then this could suggest that my topic title is true to an extent.
  3. “Indicate what social media you do use within a week” The reason why I included this question is to identify the range of social media that is used and which of those is most popular. This may be useful as some of my secondary research is only directed at a specific social media app/website e.g. Facebook.
  4. “To what extent do you think that using social media makes you feel depressed or impact your mood in a negative way?” This question is directly related to my topic title and the response to this question could determine the answer to my question. Although this question may seem broad, this was purposely as I wanted the question to refer to all forms of social media.
  5. “To what extent do you feel pressured to use social media (for example to share or produce content)?” When researching about this topic I found that a lot of researchers discovered that users feel pressured to use social media and view posts which I related to, therefore, I thought that it was necessary to include this in my survey as it may be the reason why some users feel depressed or anxious about social media.
  6. “To what extent do you agree that using social media makes you feel happy or affects your mood positively?” The reason why I included this question is because there is always an opposing view and I discovered in my research that social media users rely on social media to help them through difficult periods in life and it can make them feel happy/impact their mood positively which I wanted to be considered, as it’s possible that a large majority of people may disagree that social media makes them feel depressed or anxious.

After building my survey, including all the questions, I will save it and copy the link using a computer/smartphone. Once I have done this, I will log in to all of social media accounts and post the link to the online survey. The reason why I want to post the survey online, is because I would be targeting social media users directly and therefore my results could be more reliable. The online social media that I will post the ‘surveymonkey’ link to are: Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook. The reason why I will post the link on these apps is because out of all my social media accounts, these applications have the largest followers and obtain the most active social media users.

After 13 weeks of reposting the link on my social media, I will finally collect the results and analyze them accordingly. The reason why I allowed a lot of time for social media users to answer the survey is because I want as many people as possible to answer the survey because the larger the quantity of people answering it, the more reliable the results will be.

The Results

After closing the survey, a total of 40 people completed the survey. I found the results quite fascinating and intriguing. Firstly, out of these 40 people submitted the survey. I found that not as many users find that they spend a very long time on social media. Only around 30% of users think they spend over 5 hours on social media. In fact, the majority [37.5%] said they spend between 3 and 4 hours a day on social media. Moreover, my research suggests that 50% of users find that social media makes them feel depressed or impact their mood negatively; along with 20% not being sure how they feel. Furthermore, what I also found is that many people disagree with the idea that they feel pressured to use social media – and some users are not sure. Moreover, what was also interesting to see in my primary research is that a large majority of people agree/strongly agree that social media makes them feel contented/impact their mood positively. The fact that 50% of users feel as though social media affects their mood negatively could suggest that half of social media users find that social media makes them feel despondent. Therefore, to a reasonable extent, social media seems to have a negative effect on the social media users. However, what is also to be considered is the fact that some of the respondents seem to think that they do not spend as much time a day on social media. 70% of people think that they spend under 5 hours a day but only 50% thinks social media impacts their mood negatively. Therefore, does this mean that “too much social media” cause depression and anxiety; or can a small amount of social media still be significant and allow users to feel morose. In contrast, the fact that many people disagree that they feel pressure to be active on social media means that this may not be the reason that social media has a negative impact on people – leading to the idea that there may be other influences and factors that allow people to feel depressed/anxious.

My research suggests that many people feel that social media has positive impact on the mood. This is interesting because this is evidence that shows that social media does not always make people feel sad, but happy. Moreover, the fact that 82.5% of respondents agree with this shows that social media may generally make people feel happier rather than sullen.

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