How Social Media Causes Psychological Distress – New Study Digs Deeper

From sharing experiences to promoting your talent, social media has provided people with a platform for connecting widely. But the modern route of communication doesn’t come without drawbacks. Where social networks have empowered people and spread their voice, they have also lead to issues as grave as depression and suicide.

Several studies have explored the many cons that accompany staying a bit too active on Facebook, Instagram and the like. A new research work suggests that it is not social media that is the problem, but what excessively using it takes away from users. Accordingly, spending more time on these online platforms compromises on sleep and leads to cyberbullying. These two are what ultimately have a negative impact on the mental wellbeing of the youth.

Researchers Dive Into The Link Between Social Media And Mental Health

The Lancet published this study which researchers from the University College London and Imperial College London conducted. The researchers started tracking approx. 10,000 Britain-based teenagers in 2013 for a period of two years. These participants were in the age range of 13 to 14 and were 15 to 16 when the study ended in 2015.

In the first year of the study, scientists questioned participants how many times during a day they logged into their social channels. For the second year, the survey questioned them about their experiences with sleep, exercise, and cyberbullying. In the last year of the study, it questioned them about their anxiety, wellbeing, and overall life satisfaction.

What Did The Researchers Find?

Once the survey came to an end, scientists concluded the following:

  • The social media use of teens had increased significantly. At the start of the study, 43% of boys and 51% of girls used social media. In the third year, 69% of boys and 75% of girls used social media multiple times a day.
  • Using social media more than thrice a day caused psychological stress.
  • Girls reported twice as much psychological distress as boys.

When scientists adjusted factors such as online bullying, sleep, and exercise, the connection between social media use and psychological distress disappeared. Together both cyberbullying and lack of sleep accounted for 60% of the relationship between reduced mental wellbeing and social media use. Online bullying showed a greater effect than sleep.

What Did The Researchers Say?

Looking at the findings, researchers said that social media is harmful because of what it takes away from individuals. An author of the study, Russel Viner said, “Our results suggest that social media itself doesn’t cause harm, but that frequent use may disrupt activities that have a positive impact on mental health such as sleeping and exercising, while increasing exposure of young people to harmful content, particularly the negative experience of cyber-bullying.”

Limitations Of The Sleep

One limitation of this study was that it didn’t take into account the actual time teens spent on social media. This is an important consideration which could hugely impact the results found. Apart from sleep and self-esteem as well as physical activity, social media also causes loneliness. It reduces peoples’ ability to connect with one another face to face. Moreover, social media usage also leads to  jealousy or comlex-inducing comparisons.