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Published On: March 7, 2023|Categories: Mental Health|

Social media as a whole isn’t even 30 years old yet. Social media in the way we think of it in the modern sense (iPhones, TikTok, AI-based algorithms, etc.) is barely 20.

In other words, the true social media impact on society has yet to be revealed. 

It’s changed a lot since the launch of its initial platforms in the late 90s and early 2000s. These platforms evolved from the sharing of status updates and pictures—to sharing live and pre-recorded videos, the ability to call or video chat, offering online shopping and more.

For many people, personally and professionally, social media has become an integral aspect of their everyday lives. The different ways that social media impacts our lives can be vast and sometimes deeply harmful, especially the effects on teenagers and young adults.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the negative effects of social media on mental health specifically, and how those effects commonly affect teenagers and young adults.

The impact of social media

A great misconception is that because something feels good, it couldn’t possibly be bad for us — that pleasure could never have the consequence of pain — but it happens all the time.

Eating delicious food can be amazing, but overeating often leads to digestive problems. Substance use can provide a nice high but often leads to health issues and addiction. Shopping can be fun, but overspending often leads to debt and stress. 

Social media can be fun and seems harmless to many, but frequent use can and often does exacerbate insecurities, bullying behaviors, addictive tendencies and poor mental health.

The average teenager spends over eight hours a day on social media, a number that continues to rise with each new year as it increasingly becomes a more dominant presence in society. 

This is one of the fastest-growing and most ignored addictions of the twenty-first century.

Why is social media so addicting?

Social media enables users to get drawn into the “infinite scroll,” an intentional design principle that allows users to continuously discover and consume more content without ever having to stop. Think about it — have you ever reached the “bottom” of the feed before?

You can’t because there isn’t one.

The main reason people get drawn into the infinite scroll is the constant dopamine hits they experience by absorbing such a wide variety of content. Dopamine is linked to the brain’s pleasure and reward system, so when one or several of your senses experience something that brings you pleasure (physically or emotionally), you experience a dopamine rush, or “hit.”

Just as social media offers an infinite scroll, it also offers infinite dopamine hits. You watch a video that makes you laugh and you like that feeling, so you scroll. Next, you see a video of some delicious food that makes your eyes widen and your mouth water, you want to see more, so you scroll. A video of an attractive person pops up, your heart leaps, and you scroll again.

Many people, scroll for hours before they break away from the screen.

Common effects of social media

Social media can take a toll on every area of our lives, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Humans have never before absorbed such a vast and varied amount of content on a daily basis, and as such, we are not mentally or emotionally equipped to manage it.

The effects of social media on mental health can be serious, ranging from mild anxiety and feelings of loneliness all the way to depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Additional effects of social media include:

  • Unrealistic social comparison (both and life)
  • Cyberbullying and the promotion of radicalized ideations
  • Insomnia and other sleep pattern dysfunctions
  • Exposure to disturbing or over-sexualized content
  • Compulsive and addictive behaviors
  • Loss of creativity and productivity

Because teenagers and young adults are in such a transitional (and often, overwhelming) phase of life, it can be difficult to differentiate non-alarming symptoms of natural stress and fatigue from the same symptoms that may be stemming from a mental health condition.

When in doubt, ask for some guidance.

Speak with an advisor today

Whether your child is ready (or needs) to be enrolled in a program or not, we’re here to help. 

Our team at High Focus Treatment Centers are committed to providing you, your family and your teen with the highest level of care possible. We know that no two people are alike, which is why we focus on providing individualized support and service to each of our clients from the first assessment through each phase of the recovery process.

Contact us today to speak with an advisor and learn more about what the best next steps for your teen are.

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