March 27, 2023

By Karina Kajishima, Spoke News

Checking the phone before going to bed and right after waking up is a common routine for most of the young people nowadays. However, this habit can be a dangerous one to have and sometimes leads to serious mental health issues.

A study conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement showed that “social media was worsening bullying, body image anxiety, and feelings of depression and loneliness.” The same study also stated that Instagram was the worst platform when it came to affecting people’s mental health negatively.  

University of Toronto adjunct professor Neil Seeman, a specialist in mental health data and social media, pointed out some prejudicial points of social media.

“The downside is that you can also meet bad people on social media, as in any other meeting place, and such people can take advantage of you,” said Seeman. “Another downside is that people tend to boast on social media, so that young people who lack self confidence can begin to feel that they do not measure up.”

One of the biggest problems in this social media era is that everyone shows the highlights of their lives and creates a false reality that makes the audience think that their lives aren’t as interesting.

In a moment, yes,” said Patrick Clark, a student in Conestoga College’s general machinist program, when asked if he is affected by others’ perfect lives in the internet.  “Like, ‘This person is so happy. Wow. Why isn’t my life like this?’ But then you gotta remember how they’re just glorifying the highs of their life and once I remember that, I’m like ‘OK, I’m fine.’ ”

“It makes a false realization of who we really are — you think that lifestyle is perfect,” said Broderick Visser, a first-year journalism student at Conestoga. “It’s just so shiny and perfect. That creates a ‘I want to be like them.’ ”

According to research from the University of Essex, girls use more social media than boys and their mental health seems to be more affected by it. A survey done with almost 10,000 families showed that, at 10 years old, 10 per cent of the girls were on social media for an hour a day, while only seven per cent of the boys did the same. It was also reported that the girls at age 10 presented lower levels of happiness and more social and emotional difficulties compared to boys.

Seeman says he thinks the cases involving boys are not as visible.

We don’t hear about the boys who get addicted and spend all their time in their rooms glued to computer screens, because those stories, though more common, are not as newsworthy,” said Seeman. “Given this, it is very difficult at this early stage of research to make a definitive statement about which sex is more malignly affected. Much more research is required.”

When asked about the effects of social media on his mental health, Visser stated that he doesn’t feel very affected by it, but is aware of the problem.

“I’m not sure it affects mine, but I’ve had friends who have been so addicted to social media that it has caused problems with their mental health, like depression and anxiety,” said Visser.

Even with all of the negative aspects, it’s hard for young people to totally give up on social media.

“I really, really wanna stop using social media for a little while as a trial, but I feel like I’m too involved in social media, as a journalist, to stop,” said Visser.

In Seeman’s opinion, information is the key to success when dealing with mental health in this era.

“I suspect that discussion and mutual education is the best way to arm young people against the negative effects,” Seeman commented. “If an addiction develops, the best approach is probably the AA approach – admit that you have a problem, get a buddy to help you through the weaning, and gradually wean yourself away.”

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