Social media meltdown

Students struggle with depression with increased use of social media, studies show

It’s rare to see a millennial without a cell phone glued to their ear or underneath their fingertips. It’s also rare to meet a college student who hasn’t experienced depression, anxiety or insecurity because of it.

Social media has the power to reconnect friends and provide instant information, but it also can amp up unspoken competition and unnecessary insecurity in young adults that wasn’t there with previous generations in addition to utter obsession with the intangible internet world.

“Social comparison is a big factor," says Amy Reesing, human development professor at ASU. "That tied with limited ability for adolescents to recognize that social media isn’t always an accurate portrayal of someone’s reality. Seeing friends post marvelous spring break pictures at the beach when you’re at home with your family makes you feel like your vacation can’t compare.”

Social comparison is the theory of analyzing your life in regard to someone else’s. This act is how self-worth is determined based on how we stack up to others. In the case of social media, there’s constant scrutiny based on what our followers choose to post and “like.”

Not all depression and anxiety derives from the skewed norms of social media, but there’s been an alarming increase with technology as an obvious and probable cause. Insecurity about appearance, acceptance and success in every sense of the word is brought to the surface due to excessive use of platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

“For many it’s subconscious," Reesing says. "They aren’t fully aware that social media is having that large effect on them when it shouldn’t. Adolescents don’t realize the reason they are insecure or unhappy with their lives is because their basing their happiness of how other people would view it.”

Many millennials want so badly to prove to their followers that they’re having fun, that they forget to have fun. Being the first generation to grow up with digital technology, it’s easy for generation Y to be blind to the fact that it’s consumed them.

ASU senior Kayli Schattner runs her own website and online branding/social media management company. A 21-year-old with a large social media following, she sees how easy it is to get wrapped up in the digital realm.

“Like anything, too much of the internet can be bad for your health. It’s important to remember that we’re often viewing people’s highlight reel, not their real day-to-day lives,” Schattner says. “There’s also FOMO (fear of missing out). I get jealous, my friends get jealous. Everyone gets jealous.”

According to a 2011 study by the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a large number of adolescents experience “Facebook depression.” Humans naturally need acceptance and contact with peers, and it’s becoming increasingly more common for that to be fulfilled on the internet as opposed to in person.

“Instagram has actual hashtags girls (and boys) can use to help encourage eating disorders,” Schattner says. “It's horrifying.”

Serious issues like self-harming and eating disorders have been attributed to social media. Celebrity Instagram accounts with unreal selfies and unbelievable vacation views are idolized, causing adolescents to obsess over the status of their online persona while letting their reality slip through the cracks.

“I don’t see social media going away anytime soon,” Reesing says. “It’s all about how we use social media in the future. That will determine if depression rates rise.”

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