Social media viewed from a medical, psychological and global perspective
Guest blog by Pieter Vanackere
Our youth needs a stop button on the smartphone. This is apparent from the large-scale Belgian study Atetail Years, which annually questions 3,300 young people from secondary school about their media use. For the first time, the researchers also surveyed digital stress: 31.5 percent of young people often or very often find it difficult to stop using social media on their smartphone. Young people themselves indicate that this has a negative influence on their homework and sleeping rhythm. The fact is that 3 in 4 young people never choose social media over spending time with others.
A new form of bullying has emerged from social media, namely cyber bullying. The ubiquitous internet gives bullies a whole new platform to spread negative comments. This form can be via text message, comment on platforms or be distributed in other ways. The comments can be sent by acquaintances or strangers. The internet offers a new way for bullies to voice their opinions anonymously, lowering the social barrier to expressing negative emotions, he said. Child Focus.
Social media is a technology that has spread all over the world. Many people wonder what effect on people you get when you are in constant connection with another person. For example, the University of Pittsburg School of Medicine investigated which mental effects could possibly come from social media. Their study group consisted of 1787 American young adults between the ages of 19 and 32. Their research concluded: “The more time young adults spend on social media, the more likely they are to become depressed.”
The depression was diagnosed using “patient‐Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS)”, this is a short form in which depression is measured on different scales. Chi-square tests and ordered logic regressions were performed on the data generated from these forms.
There were significant and linear associations between social media use and depression. Social media use was measured in terms of total time spent or visitation frequency. It was compared between people who don't pay much attention to social media and others who pay more attention to social media in a week. People who pay more attention to social media are about twice as likely to suffer from depression. When comparing the 2 groups on a daily basis, the groups that paid more attention to social media at the end of the day were 1.7 times more likely to have depression. During the testing, an autonomous study group was provided that shared the same age, gender, race, ethnicity, relationship status, living situation, household income and education level.
Social media relationship with depression
There is a link between social media and depression, but this link is not always negative. There is a possibility that social media offers a rescue for those suffering from depression to fill the void.
There is also a possibility that social media instigates depression. Instead of abandoning social media, they hope to find comfort in the same platform. For example, exposure to media where the user posts their luxury life on social media provokes feelings of envy. This can lead to a misconception that others are living happier, more successful lives than you are. Social media also gives us the option to engage in pointless activities such as small online mini-games. This creates a feeling of “wasting time” in some. Your actions that first seemed meaningful in the online game don't seem so meaningful anymore and this has a negative effect on the psychological well-being of the user. The use of social media could fuel 'internet addiction' and this is a psychiatric condition closely linked to depression.
Based on the results of the study, we can conclude that social media is actually associated with depression. It is critical to use this research to inform users and develop interventions that address depression.
Professor Patricia M. Greenfield does not view the influences of social media positively. Young people risk an obsessive personality, poor self-control and a shorter attention span. This dependence has the potential to 'rewire' the brain with the result that adults are less able to deal with reality. Spending hours in front of the screen, rather than playing with peers, would prevent young children from learning basic emotional and social skills. There has been a generation that constantly craves feedback and there is a danger of narcissism and a lack of self-esteem, 'because you will always find someone who is better or more beautiful than yourself'.
Psychologist Larry Rosen has been researching the effects of technology on people for 25 years. This showed that especially young people and children had the greatest consequences of intensive use on social media.
Rosen claims that narcissism can be linked to young people who log a lot on social media. Every time the young people log in to the platform, the chance of developing an antisocial personality, excessive alcohol use or displaying paranoid behavior increases. The body of a young person is also under pressure, causing sleeping problems or problems with the stomach. The virtual world where they immerse themselves is more important to some than the physical reality, which means that there is a greater chance at school/absenteeism. This results in lower grades at school than young people who make moderate use of social media. .
Loss of focus
Due to the many applications that make use of social media, it is increasingly difficult for young people to continue to focus on one task. They just have impulses coming from 5 or more different applications that allow them to divide their attention perfectly but have a hard time holding it. These impulses also require only a few seconds of attention, which means that the sustained attention span is not trained. Research has shown that every 15 minutes that young people spend studying there are only 3 minutes where they are actually concentrated on the matter. The other 12 are reserved for monitoring the social applications on smartphone or computer. .
Social media addiction has meanwhile already become a fact next to alcohol and drug addiction because it shows exactly the same symptoms. It is even claimed that there is a shrinkage of the part of the brain responsible for speech, emotions and sensory perceptions. (this only occurs in the most extreme uses).
Even though social media is much poorly discussed by the current media (such as online newspapers, magazines, etc…), there are benefits associated with this way of communicating. Young people can explore the world around them in a relatively safe way via the internet. They can share events without directly entering into a relationship. It is a form of self-presentation without looking someone in the eye and directly taking the reactions. Social media is everywhere and is therefore also a perfect way to keep in touch with your loved ones while indulging yourself on the other side of the globe. Social media is active worldwide, so young people can build contacts worldwide to deepen into real contacts and friendships later on. There is great opportunity to learn a lot about other cultures from the cultures themselves.
The Royal Society For Public Health conducted a survey in Great Britain in 2017. The chosen target group was between 16 and 65 years of age. Their goal was to discover all aspects of social media and how we would interact with it in the future. Online platforms should be a safe place for young people and they should be able to know where to get help should problems arise.
Feeling anxious and poorer mental health
Health data emerged from their research. This data confirms the investigation previously submitted to the UPMC. There is an increased risk of depression and anxiety. 1 in 6 young people will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime, this number has increased by 70% in the past 25 years. RSFPH's research shows that 4 of the 5 most used social platforms promote their feelings of anxiety. Researchers found that young people who spend more than 2 hours a day on social networks such as facebook, twitter or instagram are more likely to experience poor mental health. Your attention then turns to people who are traveling or who are in a higher social class. When you find yourself in a lower social class, you get a wrong world view and your self-image decreases because you want to strive for perfectionism. With 70% you can deduce from social media posts whether there is a high chance of depression.
Concerns about body image
As mentioned before, you want to feel as good as anyone else through social media. 10 million new photos are uploaded to Facebook every hour. Because of the many photos, there is a lot of content to compare your body image. Studies show that girls around age 20 who use Facebook have more concerns about their own body image than girls who don't. After using facebook, the urge is also greater to change their appearance such as face, hair and/or skin. Because your self-image decreases, you start to doubt everything, you worry and this has an effect on your sleep. You lie in bed at night and wonder why you don't have a life as good as the others. Poor sleep can be linked to many physical and mental problems, in the worst cases it can even lead to heart attacks.
Health consequences of cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is now also happening on a global scale, which is dangerous. Because bullying in childhood is an important risk factor for poor psychological well-being. There is very little time that is spent out of touch these days. 7 out of 10 young people have already come into contact with cyberbullying, of which 37% says that this happens frequently. Victims of cyberbullying are more likely to experience low academic achievement, depression, anxiety, self-harm, feelings of loneliness, and changes in sleeping and eating patterns. 91% of all youth who effectively reported bullying said no further steps were taken.
FoMO or “Fear Of Missing Out” is a new concept but is growing very fast in our culture since the introduction of social media. This means that young people today want to be connected to everything because they are afraid that they would miss something or be excluded. When they are not aware of something, it can result in a lower mood or even a lower satisfaction with their life. The constant flow of photos they can receive makes them feel like they are missing life while others are enjoying it.
The positive side of social media is that you have access to other people's health experiences. Experiences are shared in which other people recognize themselves and thus have a solution for their own problem. Social platforms have been set up where you can go with health questions and where you get accurate responses. The large amount of information that is spread over the internet provides easier access to knowledge about medicines or minor ailments. In this way, young people are also better prepared for their adult future.
There is a lot of emotional support on the internet. Nearly 7 in 10 teens receive emotional support through social media during difficult times. With more than 100s of friends on social networks, there is always someone to support you. This way you can join a group and surround yourself with positive people.
Self expression has become much easier through social media. Everyone can personalize their own page so that their own personality emerges. This can be done by writing photos, videos or blogs.
As a final positive, social media is a great help to maintain relationships. Because everyone is accessible everywhere, you can more easily keep in touch with people who live further away or who you haven't seen for a while. You can strengthen bonds by hearing each other every day on social media and this translates to the real world where you see each other again. Social media is also widely seen as a “2the phase” in the meeting process. This makes it easier to continue even the shortest of interactions and still get to know that person better. Without this platform, that contact could easily have been lost.
Positive and negative characteristics emerge from the different points of view. The biggest factor that can control these influences is the users. Their choice of how they interact with social media will determine their future and support groups will have to be set up to give everyone the necessary care. Let's hope everyone helps each other in this great technological evolution to have a success experience when using online social media.