Opinion: Is Social Media Toxic For Teenagers Mental Health?

Teenagers and young adults are majorly affected by this social media usage that has caused a 13% rise in mental health issues in the last decade.

Social media impacts our everyday lives, but does it increase mental illness in teenagers? Although the age range of social media users range from kids in elementary school on iPads to adults on Facebook. Teenagers are most affected on social media platforms like Instagram, Tik-Tok, Snapchat, and Facebook, which is one of the causes of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Neha Chaudhary, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School says “Teen social media use has been thought to be correlated with depression, anxiety, worsening self-esteem, and loneliness.”

Recently the name “Facebook depression” is used by the American Academy of Pediatrics to talk about the mental health disorder directly related to social media. Therefore, social media has taken over the world but is also hurting the mental health factor in teens specifically. 

Social media not only affects teens’ mental health, it also affects other health factors like sleep. Not getting enough sleep due to being glued to their phone at night on social media is a major problem in teenagers that leads to possible issues like not staying focused, performing poorly in school, work and sports.  

There has been extensive research by INSIDER on social media use on teenagers, and it’s apparent that teens have low self-esteem along with the depression and anxiety that social media brings on. More specifically, the harmful effects of social media are more commonly found in girls.  About 21% of teens said they “feeling down” about themselves after looking at social media. and over half of those teenage girls said it was about their bodies. 

You might be wondering why these teenagers don’t just shut their phone off or disconnect themselves from social media if they know it’s bad for them from all this research and statistics out there; well it’s not that simple. There is  lots of science that shows we are basically carrying around little dopamine simulators in our pockets, so teens being constantly distracted by their phones is not surprising. This dopamine simulator is the same as someone’s addiction to gambling or drugs because all three of these activities have the same chemical reaction which kicks in dopamine. 

Phantom Vibration Syndrome is the feeling of your phone buzzing even though it is not. This is because of the psychological effect it has on our bodies and the dopamine in our brains that is telling us we want our phones. About five to 10 percent of psychologically addicted users of the internet can’t control how much time they spend online. There are brain scans of people who are social media addicts and people who are drug-addicted, and it shows that they are both very similar. In your brain there is a control area for your decision making, emotions and attention and it shows that there is a clear change in those regions due to the addiction to both social media and drugs. 

However, social media isn’t all bad in some cases. Even though 24% of teenagers say it impacts them negatively, about 31% of teens say it impacts their life positively and 45% say it doesn’t positively or negatively affect them.

Social media allows us to connect with our family and friends, and provides an opportunity to interact and provides an opportunity to interact our favorite celebrities, sports teams/players, and other influencers. 

Social media can also help develop young people’s interest and new knowledge on topics they enjoy. Some people even make a living out of social media. People start out on any social media platform and show their passions like dancing, beauty and makeup, singing, modeling, comedy skits and much more! Social media can consist of YouTubers, podcasts and social posts only.  Social media is also a good place for the market industry for business to see growth in their companies and venture out to seek more customers and possible employees. 

Even though social media can be seen as a good with the emotional support outlets and jobs you can acquire from social media, it doesn’t take away the fact that it is still an addictive and toxic environment. 

There are two different perspectives coming from social media; the viewing and posting. Posting on social media can come with a lot of anxiety because you don’t know how people are going to judge you or talk bad about you. You can also receive more hate and bullying from posting if people decide to comment on your social media. Then the viewing part of social media is the mindset of comparing. Women’s self-esteem tends to be very low because of the standard girls think they have to live to, which is to have the “perfect body”. This can cause girls to not only have self-esteem issues but can lead to eating disorders, depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts

Personally, I know coming from a teenage girl’s mind that social media can be a visible and verbally tough platform. I know for myself and other girls my age, we all struggle with self-esteem. In my friend group we are always talking about how pretty certain girls are, how we wish we could be those girls, comparing ourselves to them and comparing girls to other girls. It is overall a very toxic world we live in to even think that girls our age are having issues with their own bodies and come quick to judge others.