The past two decades have seen an explosion in the usage and popularity of social media. As platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have become ubiquitous in our lives, researchers have begun to explore the implications of this new phenomenon on our mental health. While some argue that new media can improve mental health, others worry that social media will always have a negative impact. This essay will explore how body image and self-confidence are affected by social media and analyze the potential for social media to be utilized to benefit mental health.
Positive effects of social media
On the positive side, social media affects society by being a platform where society can get educated about different issues. Additionally, social media creates awareness in the community. This was seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social media and new media were the leading platforms that were used. Siddiqui & Singh (2016) argue that social media can be used to connect with friends and family, allowing people to maintain relationships while they are physically apart. This can be especially beneficial for those who may need access to traditional forms of support, such as those living in rural areas. According to Glazzard & Stones (2019), social media can be used to find helpful resources and support groups, providing people with a safe space to discuss their issues and connecting them to individuals who can assist.
Moreover, social media can also be used to promote mental health and well-being. For example, platforms such as Twitter can raise awareness of mental health issues and support those struggling with their mental health. Additionally, social media can provide access to online resources, such as online therapy and support groups. By connecting people with mental health professionals and peers, social media can help reduce mental health stigma and provide people with the help they need.
Negative Impacts of social media
However, these platforms have more negative impacts as well. According to Allcott et al. (2020), the extensive use of social media has caused people to develop suicidal minds and depression. This is because people seem to compare their standards with other, more affluent people. Similarly, people tend to live false lifestyles on these platforms. Over usage of these platforms make users addicts. Consequently, these platforms are time-consuming as people spend much of their time scrolling through pages that are not income-generating.
Moreover, social media platforms encourage cyber crimes. Most of the young users of such platforms fall for cyberbullying and harassment. Such activities’ effects are hazardous outcomes for the victims (Akram & Kumar, 2017). For example, they may develop low self-esteem and dangerous thoughts like suicide if they do not get the necessary intervention. Furthermore, user data is not safe. Once such data falls into the hands of the wrong people, it may end up being used as leverage to extort money from them. If they fail to subscribe to the demands, they may be roasted on these platforms. As a result, the victims may fall for mental disorders and depression.
Effects of social media on the Body
Some issues are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of social media, such as body image and self-confidence. Body image and self-confidence can both be profoundly influenced by social media. Images of idealized bodies on platforms such as Instagram can create a distorted perception of what is attractive and lead to negative body image and low self-confidence. Research has found that this phenomenon is particularly acute in teenage girls, who are more likely to compare themselves to the heavily airbrushed images they see online and feel inadequate in comparison (Franchina & Coco, 2018). This can lead to issues such as anxiety and depression and has been linked to a rise in disordered eating among young people.
However, social media can be used to improve body image and self-confidence. By connecting with like-minded people online, individuals can find support and affirmation. For example, communities have formed around positive body image and self-love, providing a safe space for people to discuss their issues and gain confidence. Social media can also spread awareness of body-positive messages, encouraging people to accept and embrace their bodies.
In addition to affecting body image and self-confidence, social media can directly impact mental health. Studies have found that excessive use of social media can lead to feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. This is due to the comparison culture that often exists on platforms such as Instagram, where people compare their lives to the seemingly perfect lives of others (Jung et al., 2022). This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and yield adverse mental health outcomes.
Therefore, to conclude, it is essential to note that indeed social media and newer media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Tumblr, Reddit, and so on can be used to improve the mental health of the users by providing information and creating awareness on how to lead positive lives. However, these same platforms can lead to adverse mental health. People tend to compare themselves to others. Additionally, it leads to addiction and waste of time. Increased cyber crimes lead to negativity among users. Therefore, people should be aware of the potential for issues such as body image and self-confidence to be negatively affected by social media and take steps to minimize this impact.
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Allcott, H., Braghieri, L., Eichmeyer, S., & Gentzkow, M. (2020). The welfare effects of social media. American Economic Review, 110(3), 629-76.
Franchina, V., & Coco, G. L. (2018). The influence of social media uses on body image concerns. International Journal of Psychoanalysis and Education, 10(1), 5-14.
Glazzard, J., & Stones, S. (2019). Social media and young people’s mental health. Selected Topics in Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 7.
Jung, J., Barron, D., Lee, Y. A., & Swami, V. (2022). Social media usage and body image: Examining the mediating roles of internalizing appearance ideals and social comparisons in young women—computers in Human Behavior, 135, 107357.
Siddiqui, S., & Singh, T. (2016). Social media has its impact with positive and negative aspects. International journal of computer applications technology and research, 5(2), 71–75.