How is Social Media Affecting Us?

We live in an age where everything is digital. New phones, new data, new apps, new filters bombard us everyday. My mum uses Facebook more than I do! Social media apps such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are great for documenting and sharing your experiences and opinions but how is this double life really affecting us?


There have been a few studies relating to social media and its effect on our mental health suggesting it can increase symptoms of anxiety and depression for those who already suffer from it, and for those who don’t. Overthinking about how you come across online and comparing yourself to others are just a couple of the ways social media may be doing you more harm than good. With the younger generation being raised in a society where social media has been around for as long as they can remember, it can be hard to imagine life before. We still have a long way to go as there is still a large lack of research and awareness of the effects social media can have especially regarding young people’s mental wellbeing and I worry every time I see a primary school child with a smartphone.


Whether it’s positive or negative news or imagery our brain subconsciously consumes all it sees and this can easily affect our mood and stress levels. I know I spend way too much time aimlessly scrolling through Twitter and getting upset by the latest news story or hate crime - it doesn’t always feel like a place to unwind anymore and instead I almost wish I was ignorant. I feel like I can never escape it and desperately want out, yet I’m still addicted to my phone. 


I have been active on social media for about 9 years and I started creating accounts online when I was 11. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to stay offline for a couple more years after some of the experiences I’ve had and due to what negative effects social media has had on me and my social anxiety. I’ve seen many of my friends go through a similar thing to myself. We now live in an age where we don’t just have social interaction but we have to almost create a persona online and appear as the best version of ourselves, which frankly just sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?


The control and manipulation people have over their words and imagery allows for the ‘ideal’ self to be presented, rising expectations of beauty and wealth which can be very hard to actually achieve. Although many of us know what we are being presented with is not always the truth - especially on places like Instagram where people photoshop often - it can be difficult if you are faced with that not just in real life and the media but also anywhere you look online. If people are in a position of having lower self-esteem or social anxiety, they are more likely to compare themselves to this standard that is purely impossible to achieve. 


The lack of policing and discussion around social media is what concerns me the most - there is still a long way to go regarding what is allowed to be posted online and people being prosecuted for trolling and being inappropriate. Until we see change, I hope the younger generation remember to use social media for fun and to stay away from anything that may cause upset and distance them from the real world. There’s so much more to life than scrolling through pictures of tanned girls in bikinis! One thing that I’ve enjoyed this past year is removing accounts that post content that brings down my mood and increasing my following of artists and illustrators’ accounts to fill my timeline with more art and positivity. I’m still trying to cut down my daily screen time and I’m determined to give negative elements of social media less of my attention in the future.