UK research brings social media issues to light

UK research brings social media issues to light

Researchers in England have found a link between social media use and mental health in teens – Instagram, a photo sharing app, has the most detrimental effect.

Instagram, the second most popular social media platform according to the Pew Research Center,  can undermine young people’s well being, according to researchers with the Royal Society for Public Health.

“Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, and is now so entrenched in the lives of young people that it is no longer possible to ignore it when talking about young people’s mental health issues,” Shirley Cramer, chief executive of RSPH, said in a statement.

The study of 1,500 youth in the United Kingdom considered 14 factors, including anxiety, loneliness and body image and social media’s influence.

 

The Factors asked about were as follows:
1. Awareness and understanding of other people’s health experiences
2. Access to expert health information you know you can trust
3. Emotional support (empathy and compassion from family and friends)
4. Anxiety (feelings of worry, nervousness or unease)
5. Depression (feeling extremely low and unhappy)
6. Loneliness (feelings of beings all on your own)
7. Sleep (quality and amount of sleep)
8. Self- expression ( the expression of your feelings, thoughts or ideas)
9. Self-identity (ability to define who you are)
10. Body image (how you feel about how you look)
11. Real world relationships (maintaining relationships with other people)
12. Community building (feeling part of a community of like-minded people)
13. Bullying (threatening or abusive behaviour towards you)
14.FoMO (Fear Of Missing Out – feeling you need to stay connected because you are worried things could be happening without you)

 

Body image is seen to be a major issue that young people, both male and female, struggle with.

According to the RSPH, there are as many as 9 out of 10 teenage girls who claim that they are unhappy with their body. With 10 million new photographs being uploaded to Facebook alone every hour, it provides an almost endless potential for young women to be encompassed into appearance-based comparisons while online.

Some students have discussed how Instagram has affected their experience with self doubt about body image, and struggle to reach the “ideal” body type that is often seen in photoshopped pictures around social media.

“Always on social media you see these ideal body types, and as a plus sized woman it’s kind of hard because you’re always looking at these people and you’re like ‘oh I wish I had that type of body’,” said incoming first-year student at TCU Cydni Spurlock. “But it really doesn’t matter what type of body you have. As long as you’re healthy that’s all that matters.”

Along with facing struggles of body image, young people often encounter cyberbullying and harassment online.

MARY from TCU Student Media on Vimeo.

According to the RSPH seven in ten young people have experienced cyberbullying, with with 37% of young people saying they experience cyberbullying on a high frequency basis. This is especially detrimental when developing personally and socially as victims of bullying are more likely to experience low academic performance, depression, anxiety, self-harm, feelings of loneliness and changes in sleeping and eating patterns.

Skylar Tippetts, an incoming first-year, said that social media has a way of following you around, and that it’s impossible to just go home and be completely isolated unless you choose to put your phone away.

“I think one of the main reasons it affects people so strongly is because it’s a lot easier to say things when it’s not face to face, and it’s harder to get away from too,” Tippetts said.

With social media contributing more in recent years to depression and anxiety rates, TCU has taken action for struggling students with their suicide prevention program, “R U Ok?” This program allows for students to address symptoms and signs of depression, and helps to educate students on having conversations about suicide prevention.

With the implementation of this program, TCU hopes to create a healthier and more aware atmosphere for students.

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