On January 25th, 2017 I was a camera operator for an event for Bell Let’s Talk for the federal government which was broadcast live on Facebook. A panel shared their personal experiences with mental health and answered questions from the audience in the room. As advertised, Bell Let’s Talk is an annual campaign where Bell encourages people to text, tweet post and share using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk. For one day a year, every time the hashtag is used, Bell donates $0.05 to mental health foundations in Canada.
Bell encourages the use of social media on this one day, but I wondered, what are the effects of social media on mental health? I wanted to know how spending so much time in front of a screen, regardless of the device, affects our well-being as individuals and as a society?
Why Did I Wonder This?
One in five Canadians suffers from mental health issues throughout their lifetime. Think about that, 20% of the population suffers from mental health issues. That means you interact with at least one person every day that suffers from mental illness, whether that be someone in your family, a friend, a colleague or other. So many people suffer from mental health, myself included. I couldn’t help but want to know if the time I had spent on social media as a teen and the time I spend using the websites and apps now have impacted my mental wellbeing at all.
I was certain they had.
For more information on mental health in Canada please visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website.
The Teenage Brain
I was a teenager when all these new means of communications were emerging. I was 16 when I created my Facebook account to share pictures from a trip to Europe with friends, I was 17 when Twitter became all the rage and Instagram only became popular once I was in my 20s. In high school, my evenings were spent in front of my laptop on MSN messenger chatting with friends, I had just been with all day, always using the limited number of silly emojis available at the time. I turned to my good friend Google in order to find out what sort of impact social media has on teens as that is the stage of life I was at when it emerged and found an article published to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents and Families opened my eyes as to what has happened to society since social media broadened our horizons.
Using social media at a young age has both its benefits and its downfalls. The article greatly emphasized that using social media enables youth to learn how to use social media sites, navigate the internet and use technology such as computers, tablets and smartphones. All skills that are necessary in todays modern work environment. However, it also noted that it caused self-esteem issues, anxiety and could lead to depression in severe cases. The study also highlighted that the use of social media led to a sense of disconnect from one’s family and friends on an emotional level.
While it was what I was expecting I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around social media having such severe symptoms. My mind automatically wandered to the thought: what if using Facebook, MSN and others at such a critical point in development affected my own mental health? I remember being in college looking at Facebook and seeing pictures of people I had known in high school going to parties or travelling the world, meanwhile I was sitting in my dorm room comparing my life to theirs.
Is Social Media Failing Us?
The next article that interested me was Online Social Networking and Mental Health published to Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking took a different approach to the issue of mental health and social media. Many studies have been conducted most pointing that social media sites such as Facebook to lead to a drop in self-esteem, depression and even addiction. However, none of the studies were proven to be conclusive as the topic is still new in the world of psychology.
As I read the statistics presented time and time again saying that a study showed that Facebook use could lead to addiction, or depression and self-esteem issues, I became more and more frustrated with the repeated use of the phrase “nothing conclusive has been proven.”
I am curious to see where the studies on the topic lead in the coming years, as social media develops further and new means of connecting pop up in the online verse. Primarily, I want to know if social media is leading an entire generation into a battle with mental health.
Despite the effects of social media on mental health, I do believe that #BellLetsTalk is a great event every year which raises money and awareness towards a great cause that needs to be talked about and not shunned.
What is your take on social media and mental health? Post your thoughts to the comment section below.
*All images used in this post are used under the Creative Commons CC0 License.
Have you ever wondered how social media impacts mental health? Click here. #BellLetsTalk #SocialMedia #MentalHealth
Social media has affected individuals and the way society functions as a whole, but how much does it affect children and teens? For more click here. #BellLetsTalk #SocialMedia #MentalHealth