Social Media and Anxiety

Mar 14, 2017, 09:34 PM

Earlier this week, it was made official that Social Media is harming the mental health of teenagers: a widespread, negative impact that is unlikely to be limited to this age group alone. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, and many more social media websites are causing the younger generation to grow increasingly anxious, by emphasising the pre-existing pressure amongst teens to be perfect. Despite calls being placed upon the government to step in, one suggestion being that the topic ought to be tackled in compulsory PSHE lessons, it is unlikely that there will be any intervention made by Theresa May’s government to improve matters.

Specifically, research has been released as part of a new study carried out by Glasgow University, which reports that teenagers who engage with social media during the night could be damaging their sleep and increasing their risk of anxiety and depression. This comes with the pressure to feel available 24/7, and the resulting anxiety over not replying to posts immediately. In a recent article written for the Guardian, June Eric Udorie reports that, ‘Teens are so emotionally invested in social media that a fifth of secondary school pupils will wake up at night and log on, just to make sure they don’t miss out’.

As if this wasn’t enough of a problem, FOMO is not the only contributor to the anxiety epidemic. A separate study carried out by the National Citizen Service found that, rather than talking to their parents, girls in particular seek comfort on social media when they are worried- also suggesting that girls experience stress more often than boys, but that this stress is being expressed in new, and possibly dangerous ways.

It can therefore be suggested, that the social media problem is becoming a feminist issue as well as being an issue for mental health in general. According to research previously mentioned, social media is disproportionately effecting teenage girls, after all. On the topic, journalist June Eric Udorie puts forward her case as follows:

        “I can see it all around me. The pressure to be perfect. To look perfect, act perfect, have the perfect body, have the perfect group of friends, the perfect amount of likes on Instagram. Perfect, perfect, perfect. And if you don’t meet these ridiculously high standards, then the self-loathing and bullying begins”

Whilst the problems posed by social media quite obviously represent an increasingly dangerous threat to the young people of today, Nicky Morgan and the government refuse to act. In the broad light of day, it appears to be the case that Millennials have become the guinea-pig generation, in the sense that scientists know nothing of the damaging long-term effects that increased social media usage may pose. This recent study suggests the outcome will be entirely negative not only to our mental- health but our self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. Indeed, as we age, the more long-term effects are likely to become apparent.

For Udorie at least, it isn’t worth gambling our mental health over the internet. In a question targeted at Nicki Morgan, she asks: ‘What are we waiting for? Inaction on these issues is harming the physical and emotional wellbeing of young people in this country. What has to happen before we do something?’

On a more personal note, I have had an on- off relationship with social media myself, like many other students at the University of Bristol and elsewhere. I hold an informal conversation with my flatmate Sarah Leathem, to see if she holds opinions that are similar to my own on the matter.

Q1. Do you feel as if it has ever had a negative impact upon your mental health, and if so, why?

Q2. Is there any suggestion you would like to put forward to Nicki Morgan, in regards to how she can improve young people’s relationship with social media?

Report by Imogen Serwotka