How does social media affect mental health?

How does social media affect mental health?

17/10/2022

We spend more and more of our free time on social networks — we communicate with friends, learn the latest news, share news from our lives. 24% of young people in the US are online almost continuously. [4] 72% of US residents use at least one social network in their daily activities. [6] And in Latvia, we also actively use the social networks. The Facebook site is the most popular in our country - 66.9% of all citizens of the country resort to its services. The largest number of users falls on the age group from 25 to 34 years. [5]

How Does Social Media Affect Teenagers, Youth and Adults?

The most vulnerable users of social networks are young people and adolescents - namely they are at increased risk of mental disorders, depression and suicidal thoughts.

  • Any person can not only be praised, but also ridiculed, and anonymously - it contributes to a drop in self-esteem,  appearance of thoughts about harming oneself.
  • Content posted on some Internet sites encourages self-harm. About 15% of young people hospitalized after attempting suicide or self-harm admitted to viewing such content before committing the act.
  • There occurs constant comparison of oneself with other people. When viewing "ideal" lives on the screen, depressive syndromes gradually develop, because "everything is wrong with me." [5]

But the social media is not just a problem for young people. Adults also compare themselves to others, disrupt their sleep-wake cycle by surfing the social media late at night, viewing filtered and photoshopped photos, damaging their self-esteem and their mental health resilience. Evidence suggests that there is a strong relationship between social media use and development of symptoms of anxiety and depression. [6]

What are Positive and Negative Effects of Blue Light?

Blue light is emitted by the sun, artificial lighting, and digital device screens. If the blue light can be useful during a day (holds attention, improves reaction and mood), then it influences a person negatively at night.

A Japanese study demonstrated that exposure to the blue light an hour before bedtime shortened the duration of deep sleep. However, the deep sleep is the most important phase of sleep, thanks to which body is restored and accumulates strength for a new day. [1] The blue light, emitted from computer screens and smart devices, inhibits the production of natural melatonin (the so-called “sleep hormone”), making it difficult to fall asleep. [2]

Recommendations on Smart Use of Devices and Social Networks in Everyday Life

  • If You need lighting at night, it is the best to use subdued red light - it will have minimal influence on the circadian rhythm and will not suppress the production of the natural melatonin.
  • Do not use bright device screens 2-3 hours before bedtime.
  • If You work night shifts or use electronic devices at night, consider buying glasses which block the blue light, use screen brightness control apps blocking the blue/green rays from the screen.
  • Get plenty of sun during the day - bright daylight will improve nighttime sleep and mood during the day. [3]
  • Try not to use the social networks in the morning and before going to sleep.
  • Limit the consumed content, paying attention only to information which is useful for self-development or causes positive emotions.
  • Seek for other activities outside of social media - find a hobby, read a book, go for a walk, watch a movie. [6]

When You Should Seek Help from Mental Health Professional

  • If You have become so dependent on the social networks that You forget about Your other needs.
  • If You have come into conflict with loved ones, or Your relationships with them has suffered due to the social media.
  • If You constantly compare Yourself to other people and reprimand Yourself for not living up to those standards.
  • If You are unable to quit the social media even though You are aware of the possible negative consequences.[6]

References:

  1. Ishizawa M, et al. Effects of Pre-Bedtime Blue-Light Exposure on Ratio of Deep Sleep in Healthy Young Men. Sleep Medicine, 2021; 84: 303-307. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2021.05.046
  2. Maski K. Insufficient Sleep: Evaluation and Management. UpToDate Database, 2022.
  3. Harvard Health Publishing (2020). Blue Light has a Dark Side. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side
  4. Nes J. The Impact of Social Media on Youth Mental Health: Challenges and Opportunities. North Carolina Medical Journal, 2020; 81(2): 116-121. doi:10.18043/ncm.81.2.116
  5. Brikmane E. Trends and News of Social Networks. 2021. https://infinitum.agency/blog/socialo-tiklu-tendences-un-jaunumi/
  6. Tartakovsk M. Your Guide to Creating a Healthier Relationship with Social Media. 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/social-media-and-mental-health

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