Using Social Media Positively

Using Social Media Positively

Tanya Vidhun, Science Editor/Contributing Writer, Yorba Linda CA

 

Social media creates a passage for teens just entering the “real world” to virtually connect and communicate with the billions of people who use it as of 2020. Users can meet people across the globe with the swipe of a finger, faster than has ever been possible before. However, it is important to be aware of the effects this powerful means of communication can have on your health. 

So, firstly, what is social media? Social media, by definition, are the “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking”, according to Oxford Languages. Social networking plays a huge role today with families and friends staying connected primarily through virtual platforms. Some common social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. 

 

Positives

Before discussing the negatives, the benefits of social media must be noted. Social media provides teens with the opportunity to build their identity in the face of the public, essentially allowing them to share who they want to be. Many use this opportunity positively by joining virtual communities that promote good, becoming exposed to educational opportunities, and finding role models on social media. Teens also use social media to stay connected with friends and make new ones too, which certainly promotes a more positive mindset for the user. When interviewed, teenager Ritesh V. says he uses social media to “stay informed about news… what is going on around the world, and to connect with friends”. An easy way for teenagers to stay informed of the news is through social media, although, Ritesh adds, one must be cautious of fake news that can spread quickly into a user’s feed. In addition, teens can learn new facts and gain knowledge through social media. With good choices and a positive social outlook by staying connected with responsible friends, teens can make great use of social media to become healthy, confident adults.

 

Negatives

Unfortunately, social media can be misused and even damage the health of the user. As mentioned previously, teens create their public image through social media. It makes sense for adolescents to believe that followers or friends who have access to viewing their “image” will judge or try to find criticism in them. After all, society has grown to become quite competitive and judgemental in many aspects, including physical appearance. Some teens may put emphasis on how they represent themselves on social media, for example by investing time in choosing the best photos. This only contributes to the social pressure a teen faces alongside stress from schoolwork, parent expectations, and other commitments. At the adolescent stage, teens simply want to fit into society, but going to extreme measures to achieve this social acceptance is becoming increasingly common. From the Child-Mind Institute, Dr. Steiner-Adair adds her insight when stating, “Girls are socialized more to compare themselves to other people, girls in particular, to develop their identities… We forget that relational aggression comes from insecurity and feeling awful about yourself, and wanting to put other people down so you feel better.” The continued social pressure and attitudes Dr. Steiner-Adair discusses affect mental health as well by putting these users more at risk for depression and anxiety.

 

There is also discussion about a correlation between social media and “FOMO” or Fear Of Missing Out. Teens may find themselves lost when viewing dozens of stories of the exciting things others are doing, which provokes comparison between the user’s life and their virtual friends’ life. As described in the HelpGuide, the comparison between oneself and others can lead to the need to continuously stay updated on what others are doing, to the point that it affects the user’s health. Child Mind Institute shares a significant statistic: “72% of teens feel compelled to immediately respond to texts, social posts and notifications.” These unhealthy habits can harm a teen’s health in a number of ways. For one, teens feel so addicted to their social media feed that their sleep schedules are disrupted. For optimal health, teenagers should have 8-10 hours of sleep according to the CDC. The use of social media can cause one to become addicted to his device, pushing into the night which damages physical health without the proper nourishment sleep provides. Teens, especially, need this sleep since they are in their peak growth stage. Social media can be used as a distraction from caring for their own needs and health. When using social media, teens are usually not physically active, but rather staring at their device without moving more than a few fingers. This lack of movement can cause teens to neglect their physical health and fitness at times when staying active is essential to health.

In addition, teens, sometimes, develop imposter syndrome in which they begin losing self-esteem by comparing themselves to others. Not only can this hurt future opportunities teens may have, but this self-doubt can lead to mental health complications such as depression and anxiety. Social media can also change one’s perception of reality and, in turn, increase self-doubt. McLean Hospital writes, “Social media puts a distorted lens on appearances and reality. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat increase the likelihood of seeing unrealistic, filtered photos at a time when teen bodies are changing… Apps that provide the user with airbrushing, teeth whitening, and more filters are easy to find and easier to use. It’s not only celebrities who look perfect—it’s everyone.” Teens, especially girls, begin losing the distinction between reality and edited perfection, putting them in a more vulnerable position to losing self-esteem. 

 

 

 

Cyberbullying has also become more prevalent with social media in which people can hurt each other by words without thinking about the effect it may have on others. When someone is hurt, especially through social media, it can be difficult to cope without being able to talk out the issue in person. This can, again, damage mental health and also social health. Equally important, social health plays a key role for teens in today’s day and age. When teens feel like they are not accepted by peers, they turn to digital platforms to try and change themselves and can harm their health in the process. 

 

So, as the Child Mind Institute summarizes, the main negative effects of social media stem from overuse, anonymity, and permanence. In other words, social media use in excess is harmful to health and anonymity means people make different choices that may not be for the better through online platforms. In terms of permanence, it is challenging to undo an action that has been made on the internet. 

 

How To Use Social Media in a Healthy Way

Although the effects of social media on health described above may seem a little frightening, you can use social media positively by adding a few extra steps into your lifestyle to ensure good health.

 

Set limits on your social media usage by keeping track of the amount of time you are spending on it every day. Try restricting your usage over time until you find a balance that works to keep you healthy and satisfied. 

Find a “bedtime” for when you will stop using social media for the day and instead focus on getting the amount of sleep you need. Turn off notifications from social media to keep this focus.

 

Think before you post or comment on social media. Remember that your actions affect others, so be mindful of the choices you make.

Follow accounts that you believe are good, and do not let strangers follow you. 

 

Be yourself. This is crucial when using social media in order to promote good mental health for yourself as well as your peers. 

Lastly, help your peers who may be harming their health by using social media. Encourage them to develop healthy social media habits. Social media and the health of our community are becoming increasingly intertwined as social media usage increases over time. As we move towards a more digital age, always remember to make healthy social media choices by using it to move our society in a positive direction.   

 

Sources:

https://www.statista.com/statistics/278414/number-of-worldwide-social-network-users/

https://www.verywellfamily.com/ways-social-media-affects-teen-mental-health-4144769

https://www.mcleanhospital.org/essential/it-or-not-social-medias-affecting-your-mental-health

https://newsroom.osfhealthcare.org/screen-time-for-kids-how-much-is-too-much/

https://youthfirstinc.org/using-social-media-responsibly/

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/social-media-and-mental-health.htm

https://childmind.org/article/how-using-social-media-affects-teenagers/

 

Image Credits: 

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