Evaluating the Impact of Social Media on Adolescent Mental Health and Wellness

social media and teens

Evaluating the Impact of Social Media on Mental Health and Wellness

Social media has taken the world by storm over the past decade, and it has become an integral part of our lives, whether we are actively engaging on one or more platforms or know someone who is.  With more than 3 billion active users on social media worldwide and an estimated user base of over 2 billion among adolescents, understanding the psychological nature of this medium is becoming ever more important. 

While there are many positive aspects to using social media, mental health professionals are witnessing a direct correlation between excessive use of these platforms and severe psychological distress. In order to help individuals navigate the complex social media landscape and minimize the negative psychological effects of excessive use, it’s important to understand the different ways social media can impact our mental health. 

Current trends showcase how social media is completely changing how we interact with each other and consume content on our phones and computers. We now have the power to curate and post our own virtual stories, engage in conversations with people all around the world, and access current events instantly. 

From increasing communication to establishing new avenues for information sharing, it seems as if the consequences of social media are far greater than we ever anticipated.  Additionally, in this ever-evolving landscape, it’s become increasingly difficult to truly understand how our lives are being shaped by social media – both positively and negatively. 

On the one hand, social media can be a powerful tool for self-expression and community building.  It provides an outlet for people to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with others who may not have access to them otherwise. It also allows users to connect with like-minded individuals who might otherwise be difficult to find in their physical communities. This can help people feel less lonely and more connected to others. 

For the majority of users, social media is seen as a positive and fun way to share information with others and connect with friends, family, and colleagues.  In addition, it has opened the door to countless new opportunities, from job searching to simply connecting with friends over long distances.  

On the other hand, there is growing research that suggests that social media may also have a detrimental impact on mental health and wellness.  It has been suggested that social media can cause stress and anxiety for some users.  For instance, it is not uncommon for some individuals to find themselves comparing themselves to others on social media or feeling pressure to post photos that are “perfect” in order to fit in or gain approval from peers.  Adolescents may also feel left out if they don’t have many friends on social media compared to other accounts they are viewing.  

The constant stream of notifications from apps like Instagram or Snapchat can cause stress by distracting users from other aspects of their lives. Additionally, teens may become addicted to the dopamine spike associated with receiving likes or comments on posts—a phenomenon known as “social media conditioning.”  Current research has found that certain types of content—such as posts related to beauty standards or body image issues—can negatively affect mental health outcomes among young women and adolescents who view it frequently (e.g., feeling depressed after viewing such content).  

It’s important for adolescents to have healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with the negative impacts of social media. Some ways to do this include talking to a trusted adult, participating in activities they enjoy, and spending time with friends and family.

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