The Evolution of Social Media: A Growing Concern to Mental Health Essay Example

The Evolution of Social Media: A Growing Concern to Mental Health Essay Example
📌Category: Health, Mental health
📌Words: 1961
📌Pages: 8
📌Published: 29 May 2021

Social media consists of websites and applications that enable users to create, share, or participate in social networking. In the modern world today, technology is currently evolving meet the needs of connecting society quicker and more efficiently. According to, In 2019, “it is estimated that there will be around 2.77 billion social media users around the globe, up from 2.46 billion in 2017.” Common social media apps used by teens and adults today include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, all in order to share what’s new in their daily lives. People depend on social media for multiple reasons; connect with friends or family, staying up to date on news, and for all round enjoyment.  As social media revolutionizes with better technology and easier accessibility, more and more people are beginning to be apart of a digitalized world.

Edward Kessler explains the evolutionary stages social media has gone through in order to understand how it became so mainstream to this day. “The three evolutionary stages of social media consist of One to one connections, one to many, and many to many connections” (Kessler 2).  One to one connections were prevalent in the 1980s, mainly to send emails and receive information in a more timely manner. Next, during the 1990s, one to many connections were introduced, an example being the rise of Google becoming used as the default search engine on the premature version of the internet. Last but not least are the many to many connections, developed in the early 2000s to which is now known today as social media.

To the naked eye, social media may seem harmless at first glance, however, the growing integration of social media in people’s lives has a dark secret held within. During the early days of social media, many people didn’t fully understand the power it would one day possess in the near future. The power of social media is strong, as an example, with new technologies today, rural villages can now connect to inner-city hubs in developing countries like India. Social media can also help spread cultural values and propose a more widespread method of addressing religion. In “Social Media and the Movement of Ideas” by Dr. Edward Kessler, who is the head of interfaith relations at St. Edmunds college in Cambridge, “Spreading religion would be at its peak and more people would join blogs and sites to learn more about it” (Kessler 4). The spread of religious ideas is one of the many ways social media is reshaping people’s lives on a global scale. With all things considered, some health experts say this new age of social media growth has caused a direct link to mental health deterioration in many young adults and teenagers today.

Social Media’s Toll on Academic Performance

Many teens today, can be found using their phones for non-academic purposes, like talking to their friends or on Youtube during school hours. Social Media should not be set as a distraction preventing students perform well throughout their years as a student. Gagan Deep, a psychology professor from the Department of Communications in Haryana, India, gives numerous examples of how social media is having a negative impact on teenagers ability to perform well in school. As Deep states, “A few examples are lack of concentration, decrease in the ability to focus on the task at hand, and students not feeling motivated to do their work”(Deep 4). This issue brings in context the research done by Saswati Jena and Namita Mohanty from the Department of Psychology at Utkal University, India.

Their study grouped Indian students aged 14-15 and another group aged 16-17 to ask a variety of questions regarding their use of social media on a daily basis.  They used the Perception of Social Media Questionnaire in which “students rated their thoughts on social adjustment, health issues, and social relationships”(Jena 6). Their results concluded that academic anxiety seemed to be a large playing factor in poor academic performance. “The academic anxiety of late adolescent students was comparable to those of early adolescence, however, female adolescent students had higher academic anxiety over their male counterparts”( Jena 3). The findings of Jena’s study can connect to teens preferring texting over studying. 

The less studying being done can make one feel less confident about their test scores or overall performance. This lack of confidence in academics is related to the cause of academic anxiety becoming a severe threat to an adolescents pressure to do well in school. Some ways of decreasing academic anxiety are; education about technology, engaging in afterschool activities and becoming less introverted through potential therapies. According to Deep, extracurricular activities would “engage creativity within the mind in order to become less dependent on technology’s grasp”(Deep 3). Joris Van Ouytsel, a notable research assistant in the Department of Communication Studies of the University of Antwerp also promotes education awareness and teachings. “ Discussing the importance of posting to social media and how to maintain a well rounded online profile”(Ouytsel 3). What is unknown is the cause of why teens use social media for prolonged periods of time over anything else. The value of an education is a key component in developing the correct mindset to be successful later on in life. 

Teenage Confidence and Social Communication

To begin with, many people, especially teenagers,  can appear uncomfortable or insecure when meeting new people or being around others who they are unfamiliar with. Before the exponential growth of social media use, children and teens used to be more physically connected, they went outside to hang out and socialize with their friends in person. As compared to today,  where the click of a button on a phone can connect a group of friends all at once. Social media has taken a crucial toll on how teens interact with one another by preventing, in some cases, teens not wanting to leave their homes to join their family or friends in activities. The “Selfie” aspect of social media may have a correlation to this upward trend. According to Google trends, 24 billion selfies were uploaded in 2015. This is a lot of personal images of one’s self-being shared across the Internet.  

Sociologist Junho Song from the Department of Social Sciences at Hanyang University, South Korea, takes a more in-depth look into this buildup in the number of selfies that are posted online. Tran used the popular social media app Instagram to conduct a study to link isolationism and cyberbullying.  Song took the age range data, ages 16-21 of Instagram users to categorize what type of material that was being shared.  Song made a discovery to which she noticed many of the users' incorporated  #selfie tags in their posts. “About 100,000 of the given 250,000 subjects given to analyze, selfies seemed to be a big factor in how teens wanted to express their thoughts and feelings to others”(Song 5). 

Trans data can be connected to isolationism and social disconnect, due to the appearance of what other users think about the “selfie” being shared. Moreover, females are more likely to post selfies online. According to Song, “females post more selfies because they have higher exhibition than men” (Song 6). The reason being is that of which teens are afraid of what others may think about their personal image. Tran also pointed to the fact that “the leading cause in teen disconnect can be closely related to the judgment from others online”(Song 6). This judgment can lead to cyberbullying which poses another major threat to the mental health of anyone that uses social media. Cyberbullying can ultimately lead to depression amongst teens who feel isolated or have a sense of not being accepted by other people’s standards.

Despite cyberbullying being prevalent and widespread, there are numerous efforts to stop the increase online, the most effective way is using automated keyword text detection systems. Cynthia Van Hee, from the Department of Linguistics at Ghent University in Belgium, addresses how the use of machine learning can help combat cyberbullying. Using Instagram and Twitter data, “ the detection system took a set of data to take into account bully-related keywords in the posts received and sent out by users that were being bullied online” (Van Hee 4). This new technology is changing the way social media platforms can be used to not only stop acts of aggression online, as well as helping to improve the mental health of the users to prevent seeing a growing trend in hurtful posts. In regards to a Huffington Post article by Julia Brucculieri, who specializes in Global Lifestyle reporting, she discusses how teenage girls use selfie editing apps to make themselves appear more adultlike than they really are.

With the help of Photographer Gary Rankin, he took a group of teenage girls and asked them to use the photo editing app to show what they want to look like. The results were truly shocking, as it turned out “the girls made their faces appear skinnier, enlarge their eyes, and essentially making themselves appear better than they actually are”(Brucculieri 5). This act of editing one's appearance to look better than in reality is a growing concern in teen’s levels of self-confidence and personal image. Moreover, a research study conducted from Penn State University in 2016, concluded that people who viewed others selfies felt a sense of lower self-esteem. 

Social Media Addiction and Futuristic Implications 

The power social media can have in changing how people think can negatively harm them in the long run. As many may know p, it is hard for teens nowadays to stop themselves from looking at their cell phone. That urge to answer the text or make a quick glance to check out what’s new on Snapchat is of growing concern. Those are not limited to the numerous side effects cell phone addiction can have to those that succumb to the need to browse the feed. Mark Griffiths, who is a Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Addiction and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Nottingham Trent University (UK), discusses multiple ways that provide teens the ability to get rid of their addiction. Griffith notes a few “digital detox” strategies to combat social media addiction, “simple steps include having periods in the day where there is self-imposed non-screen time (such as during meal times) and leaving your smartphone in a separate room from where you sleep” (Griffiths 2). Less screen time is key for teens and adults to understand and perform ordinary tasks to their full potential without the distraction of a cellular device buzzing with notifications or other devices.  “their mobile nature contributes to excessive checking habits, which often derives from what is commonly labeled as the ‘fear of missing out (FOMO)” (Griffith 1).

The fear of missing out is a way to look at how social media can rewire how people function and make them essentially glued to a screen which provides an endless source of information. Obviously, numerous mental health issues are involved from FoMO; anxiety, depression, loneliness,  and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. These mental health issues are continuously on the rise if nothing is implemented to stop the overuse of social media. Jessica Brown, a notable BBC journalist who began the #Like-Minded movement, discusses the potential future effects that social media can possess. “social media is changing faster than scientists can keep up with, so various researchers are trying to study compulsive behaviors related to its use”(Brown 6). Since social media addiction is evolving at a continuous rate, it is indeed classified as a mental health problem that is being addressed by many as concluded in a study by Dr. Mark Griffiths and Daria Kuss in 2011. 


Despite the rising trend in deteriorating mental health from social media being a severe threat to society, there are numerous ways to combat the negative connotations. The benefits of social media and the use of technology as stated before, do possess benefits. With deeper research, the constant use of social media does, in fact, lead to harm in mental health. The top three ways to combat social media’s effects on mental health are as followed; previously stated by Gagan Deep, educating students about good online reputations,  Dr. Mark Griffiths focusing on digital detox strategies, and working on becoming more interactive in the real world. The all-around solution to help decrease the number of people affected by using social media to often would be the combination of using education to teach how social media works and using digital detox strategies Mark Griffiths provides to prevent overuse and addiction. Ultimately teens and young adults of this technology-infused generation need to become more aware of how dangerous today's age of social media can have as a whole on a global scale.




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