“What you see on social media are heavily sanitized and filtered versions of reality”.
Use of social media (Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat) has become especially intense among adolescents. A recent Ontario (Canada) study indicates that 80% of young people use social media on a daily basis, with almost 50% for over two hours per day. Psychiatric researchers have conducted rigorous studies on the topic. They produce consistent findings: heavy utilization of social media brings poorer mental health. A large-scale University of Pittsburgh study indicated that heavy social media users are three times more likely to be depressed than occasional users. Another study of young adults in Michigan showed that recent Facebook use worsens "how people feel moment to moment and how satisfied they are with their lives”. Researchers at the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health analyzed data for 10,000 adolescents. Young people who use social media more than two hours per day are much more likely to rate their mental health as "fair" or "poor" compared with occasional users. Why is heavy usage of social media associated with worse mental health? Three inter-linked factors are at play. Firstly, heavy usage may negatively influence important aspects of physical health, which in turn affects mental health. Social media usage can seriously disturb the quality and quantity of sleep. This study shows that many have difficulty logging-off and going to sleep. Others may deliberately wake up to check social media during the night. Sleep is crucial for the developing adolescent brain, and sleeping well has been consistently associated with good mental health. Likewise heavy users of social media often remain slumped on a chair, shut up in their room, glued to their screen. This sometimes means that they are skipping meals or staying sedentary for excessive periods of time. Again, this is worrying given that regular exercise and a healthy diet have both been linked to good mental health. Secondly, some research shows that so-called "passive use" of social media may be particularly bad for mental health. Passive use refers to the practice of quietly observing other people's social media profiles and pictures -- sometimes known as "Facebook stalking." Finally, let's not forget that social media is in many respects anti-social. Let's ensure the real social world plays just an important part in our lives as the virtual social world.