‘Compare and despair’ is harming mental health
You’re not going to heart this.
Instagram has the most negative impact on young people’s health and well-being, according to a survey of nearly 1,500 people ages 14-24 released Friday by the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) and the Youth Health Movement. The researchers asked participants to rank Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube on whether these social media platforms made 14 issues issues — including anxiety, depression, sleep and loneliness — better or worse.
For its part, Instagram told Moneyish that “keeping Instagram a safe and supportive place, where people feel comfortable expressing themselves, is our top priority” adding that they “work in partnership with experts to give people the tools and information they need while using the app, including how to report content, get support for a friend they are worried about or directly contact an expert to ask for advice on an issue they may be struggling with.”
And to be fair, participants said that all of the platforms — with the exception of YouTube — had a negative impact on their well-being. “Seeing friends constantly on holiday or enjoying nights out can make young people feel like they are missing out while others enjoy life,” the researchers write. “These feelings can promote a ‘compare and despair’ attitude in young people.”
What’s more, the researchers point out that people may be looking at “heavily photo-shopped, filtered or staged photographs and videos and compare them to their seemingly mundane lives.” Indeed, a separate survey released this week by TruePic showed that, of Americans who have shared a photo online, 62% admitted to editing the photo before posting. “The unrealistic expectations set by social media may leave young people with feelings of self- consciousness, low self-esteem and the pursuit of perfectionism which can manifest as anxiety disorders.”
This isn’t the first study to link social media usage to poor mental health. A 2015 study of 750 students in middle and high school found that those who spent two hours or more on social media each day reported having poorer mental health, including higher rates anxiety and depression.
And it’s not just teens and college kids that social media is messing with, as this study of more than 5,000 adults concludes: “The use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being. These results were particularly strong for mental health … We found consistently that both liking others’ content and clicking links significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction,” the authors wrote about their findings in the Harvard Business Review this year.
What should you do if social media is making you feel down? First, remember that many of these pictures are Photoshopped and that people are typically only putting their best foot forward on these platforms. Second, set time limits for yourself for using social media.
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