Social media depression is a theory that describes the depressive thoughts associated with social media. It is important to reiterate that this is only a theory at this moment in time and although much research is being conducted into the idea that social media and depression links, many still argue that people with depressive tendencies are more drawn to the digital realm. So, with all worries of pro-social media warriors attacking this blog title, let’s get into the details and speculate together.
To me, it seems that there is a clear relationship between social media and mental health. But first let’s clear something up. When people hear the words ‘mental health’ they immediately think of mental health illness, which is different to ‘mental health’ itself. Mental health is a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being. Therefore, mental health consists of negative emotions and positive emotions. So, when I say I believe there’s a clear relationship between social media and mental health, I mean it can affect a person positively as well as negatively.
When I think of social media depression, I immediately think of Instagram. Why? Because this is one of the main platforms that focuses a lot on building a personal profile that is primarily used to showcase appearance. Also, growing up in the ‘millennials’ generation has led to a lot of teenagers and children becoming excessively interested in their physical appearance, as opposed to focusing on building their character profile. We find ourselves obsessing over other people’s as well as putting our lives out there too. Many even publicly display their life – for what reason? Because we want people to think we’re interesting!
Here’s a few questions for my generation: have you ever been to a party and NOT posted at least one snap of that party on SnapChat/Instagram? Have you ever been abroad on holiday and NOT posted at least one snap of that location? In fact… here’s one that will catch some people out… Have you ever posted a picture of your food on social media? But have you ever stepped back to think about what you’re actually doing? You’re suggesting that people WANT to see what you get up to every day. Why is that? The truth is – humans are quite boring! We often like the idea of someone being exciting and spontaneous and popular… but really a lot of the time that’s not who we actually are. We find ourselves showcasing someone we aren’t all for wanting to feel accepted in this society. (I don’t know about you, but I’d really just rather binge on pizza and Netflix in my bed on a Friday night – call me boring!)
My childhood was just about spared from this and only really kicked in during my teenage years. Before this – as described in my other blog ‘Let’s Talk Confidence‘ – I was an overweight child who didn’t really care much about what others thought until secondary school. I didn’t have a smartphone until the age of around 13, which I would say is a decent time to be given a smartphone, unlike the younger generations I have seen with such devices. I’ve seen kids as young as seven/eight walking to and from school using smartphones and even posting selfies on SnapChat and Instagram – it’s insane! Again, this is linked to the idea of wanting to feel accepted. Now that smartphones are being handed mindlessly to younger children, the more left out other children without smartphones feel. Instead of, “let’s play outside after school today” it’s now “Snapchat me as soon as you get home! We can’t lose our streak!” (Please stop me from vigorously shaking any child under the age of 12 I hear saying that.”
From a raw, young age their brains are already being filled with the misconception of beauty and ‘perfection’ and become victims of social conformity. When I see girls as young as five wearing make-up it angers me. I can’t help but question the teachings and morals of the parents. This is just a personal opinion! As this is becoming more and more common, these ideologies are being programmed into their minds earlier and earlier and unfortunately usually stick with them through their teenage life and maybe even longer.
Having done some research, I actually found that – according to the NHS site – Instagram was ranked the worst for mental health in a teen survey. Being a teen myself, it was no shock that my thoughts correlated with this discovery. “Rates of anxiety and depression in young people have increased by 70% over the last 25 years.” I can’t help but see such a clear link between excessive social media use and the alarming increase of teen mental health problems. I genuinely believe that there is a mass self-confidence crisis amongst my generation and I do blame social media for that.
Nowadays, most girls look at other girls on social media and feel less beautiful. They often desire physical aspects and traits that they are seeing get tons of views, likes and comments such as a slim waist, big booty, big breasts, clear skin and a small nose (to mention a few.) Equally, I empathise that there are many boys who lack self-confidence as a result of what they see online as well. For instance, having a toned, muscular body and an impressive penis size that’s displayed through quite tight grey sweatpants. (I never thought I’d end up using the word penis in my blog.)
Despite all of this, we can’t ignore the suggestion that people with more depressive tendencies are more drawn to the online realm. I do somewhat believe that people who have depressive tendencies do seek for comfort and a sense of hyper-reality online. This is particularly noticeable in online virtual reality games whereby you often meet and make friends with people from all around the world. From personal experiences, it is often the people who seem shy and insecure in social surroundings like school and workplaces that see the online world as an escape. Is this then a case of those people being more vulnerable that makes them more likely to take criticism online harsher than the rest of us? Maybe. I’m not an expert in any professional field so I wouldn’t know. Although, this is a very fair suggestion that I won’t disregard when discussing the possible link to social media and depression/anxiety.
To conclude, I think anyone who would not consider a possible link is denial, as well as the possibility of the ‘depressive tendencies’ argument. As a seventeen-year-old girl who is guilty of spending lots of time on social media apps, I wholeheartedly accept that social media has become a substantial part of a lot of our lives and has been drilled so much into our routines that we can’t help but feel susceptible to criticism, cyber bullying and overall judgemental people when all we are known for doing is pouring our life and personal image out on to social media.