Use of social media sites has exploded over the last decade. Within just a few years, millions of us have become regular users of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and many other sites. We connect with old friends, share what goes on in our lives, read about what others are doing and pass around plenty of time-wasting videos and images. What impact is this quick rise in a new way of communicating having on our mental health? There are some positive impacts, but perhaps more negative ones.
Benefits Of Social Media
There are benefits to using social media. Some are practical. Using social media sites has become a means of networking, marketing and advertising. Many people use social media to find jobs, to start up a small business and to advertise products. Social media is also a fun way to connect with people who are geographically distant. You can find old friends you haven’t seen in decades. You can keep up with your sister on the other side of the country. Sharing updates, pictures and videos with the people you love can be positive in a powerful way.
Social Media Effect On Teen Substance Abuse
Among the downsides of using social media is its impact on teen substance abuse rates. A survey from Columbia University found that 17 million teens use social media sites on any particular day. Among these teens, those using the sites every day are five times more likely than their peers to smoke, three times more likely to drink and two times more likely to smoke pot.
The connection between the behaviors can be explained by what teens see on social media. According to the survey, 40 percent of teens on social media sites have seen images of people smoking, drinking, using drugs and in various states of intoxication. Experts know that when teens see such images, they are more likely to seek out substances and to experiment with them.
Social Media’s Effect On Our Well-Being
For all of us, adults and teens alike, social media impacts our overall well-being. Many of us get on these sites every day and feel compelled to share and to check updates. Despite our constant interest in being on the sites, researchers have found that social media can actually make us feel bad.
Participants in a study from the University of Michigan were asked several times a day for two weeks how they felt before and after using Facebook. They were also asked how they felt about their lives after the two-week period. The study found that Facebook overwhelmingly made people feel worse. In fact, the more people used the social media site, the worse they felt. Using Facebook also correlated with an overall low level of satisfaction with life.
Social Media Addiction
If social media use makes us feel bad, why do we keep going back to it? The answer may be addiction. Researchers have found that, as with using drugs, being on social media sites engages the reward and pleasure centers in our brains.
Researchers have long known that we as humans like to share things about ourselves. This desire is nothing new. What is new is that we can now share on a worldwide platform and at a faster rate than ever before. The result, at least for some people, may be the development of a behavioral addiction. Social media can be detrimental to both teens and adults. Monitor your use and back away if you find yourself becoming obsessed with sharing and reading about others.
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