Social Media and Mental Health
Updated: Jan 17, 2022
Social media usage is growing rapidly, with 3.78 billion users worldwide in 2021, a 5% increase from last year.¹ With a new technology playing a larger role in our lives, the natural question to ask is ‘how does this innovation impact our mental health and well-being?’.
The impact of social media is most prominent in adolescents, where social media use is associated with increased depressive symptoms, increased levels of social comparison, cyberbullying, and lower life satisfaction, derived from questions such as ‘My life is going well’, ‘I wish I had a different kind of life’, and ‘I have what I want in life’.² This can be due to two factors: on one hand, adolescents who use social media often may be more likely to spend less time on offline activities important for mental health such as physical exercise and spending time outdoors.³-⁴ On the other hand, adolescents with more mental health issues may be more likely to use social media for emotional and social support.⁵ When exploring social media and mental health, it’s important to note that the associations between the two are linked to personal agency on platforms, not frequency. Thus, time spent on social media is not the driving factor, rather, an individual’s personal relationship and use-case with social media.⁶ For example, two people may use social media for 60 minutes a day, with one using it to keep in touch with friends and plan a road trip, while the other uses that time to compare themselves to others.
Social media plays a crucial role in the way we connect and interact with others. To build a healthier relationship with your news feed, remember to reduce your screen time, be aware and reflective of what you share, and unfollow unhealthy accounts that make you feel overwhelmed or less than.⁷
1. Oberlo. (2021, January). How Many People Use Social Media in 2021 [Updated Jan 2021]. Oberlo. https://www.oberlo.ca/statistics/how-many-people-use-social-media.
2. Kelly, Y., Zilanawala, A., Booker, C., & Sacker, A. (2019). Social Media Use and Adolescent Mental Health: Findings From the UK Millennium Cohort Study. EClinicalMedicine, 6, 59–68. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eclinm.2018.12.005
3. Primack, B. A., & Escobar-Viera, C. G. (2017). Social Media as It Interfaces with Psychosocial Development and Mental Illness in Transitional Age Youth. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 26(2), 217–233. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2016.12.007
4. Underwood, M.K., & Ehrenreich S.E. (2017) The power and the pain of adolescents' digital communication: Cyber victimization and the perils of lurking. American Psychologist, 72 (2), 144-158, 10.1037/a0040429
5. Radovic, A., Gmelin, T., Stein, B. D., & Miller, E. (2016). Depressed adolescents' positive and negative use of social media. Journal of Adolescence, 55, 5–15. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.12.002
6. Tempel, L. R. (2014). Danah Boyd: It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. Clinical Social Work Journal, 43(2), 249–250. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10615-014-0512-3
7. Tanap, R. (2019, February 25). How to Have a Healthy Relationship with Social Media. NAMI. https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/February-2019/How-to-Have-a-Healthy-Relationship-with-Social-Media.