The world is rapidly moving towards online and digital services more than ever before. Social networking is among the digital services that are widely used across the globe and it is continuously penetrating new markets. Further driven by the pandemic lockdowns, there were over 3.3B social media users worldwide.
This number is also expected to further increase to 4.4B people in 2025. All numbers are pointing to the direction that social media is slowly taking over our daily lives. But the question remains, is social media in itself harmful? Or is it a tool that many are simply misusing and abusing?
Before getting into social media and its impact, let us not forget that humans are social creatures. Making meaningful connections with people is an essential part to maintaining our emotion and mental wellbeing. According to Harvard, several studies indicate that strong social connections can contribute to longer and healthier lives.
So it does not come as a surprise that during a time when isolation and lockdowns are becoming the new normal, social media is proving to be an ally in helping people stay connected even when they are thousands of miles apart. However, while we cannot deny that social media has its benefits, which include creating connections and allowing people to express themselves, it is important to know that it cannot be a replacement to real-world human connection.
Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all have their benefits, but we cannot deny that if overused they can backfire and have a significant impact on our mental health. One study even points out that people who used social media less had a lower chance of suffering from depression and loneliness. A high level of exposure to social media can lead a person to feel that their life is not adequate enough or even impact their self-esteem.
Furthermore, a lot of people might experience fear of missing out (FOMO), which can impact their mental health negatively and make them feel less for not experiencing what others are. Not only that, but FOMO can also make people continuously want to check their accounts regardless if they are at home or driving, which can pose a risk to their wellbeing.
Social media can be a great asset, however, there are also people who use it as a way to bully and hurt others. Researchers are also reporting an increase in cyberbullying during the pandemic, which is a red flag in itself. Therefore, it is important that parental figures teach their kids how to use social media mindfully and make use of its benefits.
“What we don’t realize about the internet in today’s world is that social media (Instagram in specific) may be doing much more harm than good. The rates of anxiety and depression are much higher among young teenage girls who spend a larger amount of time on the internet, comparing themselves to the influencers they follow online. Unfortunately what these girls don’t realize is that they compare themselves to a filtered image of someone else, an edited version of someone’s life. More and more teens are also being impacted by cyberbullying, as internet access is easy and accessible to almost anyone in the world.” - Noureen Ben Halim, Counseling Psychologist
At the end of the day, social media is a tool, and it is our responsibility to know how to use it and set boundaries. Being mindful of how we use social media and when to use it, is an important part of taking care of our mental health. Ultimately, social media is a great asset and we should take advantage of the benefits it entails while being careful not to abuse or misuse it.
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