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Social media is addictive. You know that, I know it, and so does the world.
And now a new study has been added to this solid body of evidence that proves how insidious this platform is for your mental health and well-being, especially that of girls.
Conducted by a group of researchers at the University of Essex, U.K., the study gathered data from more than 10,000 families between the years 2009 and 2015, and assessed the mental health of the 10-year-old children in these families over the years until they turned 15.
The assessments measured happiness and well-being in different areas of these children's lives and judged how they handled emotional and social challenges. And the results were quite disturbing:
While only 10% girls and 7% boys aged 10 used social media for at least an hour, the number dramatically increased to 43% girls and 31% boys by the time they were 15.
And the mental health analysis of these children revealed that the girls had lower levels of happiness compared to the boys and suffered from more social and emotional problems.
The study could not establish a causal link between the mental state of the children and the amount of time they spent on social media. But it resonated with the results found by many studies in the past that showed how excessive use of social media increases the risk of depression and teen suicides.
The following are 5 ways how social media can ruin your mental health.
1. It’s As Addictive As Cocaine
The medical profession classifies an addiction as anything that induces you to neglect your personal life, show traits of escapism, have extreme mood swings, constantly think about the addictive substance, and then try to hide from other people the fact that you use the substance so frequently.
And those who are constantly on social media show all these traits.
In fact, a study done at the Swansea University found that those who try to extricate themselves from this vicious addiction to social media always show physiological and psychological symptoms of withdrawal, similar to what happens when you try to quit smoking or snorting coke.
2. It Paints A False Picture of Reality
Scroll down your Facebook wall or Instagram feed and you will only find pictures of people having the time of their life at a party, a trek in the Himalayas or learning to make pots at a pottery workshop. What you will not find are pictures of people crying their hearts raw because their boyfriend broke up with them or a snap of them sitting alone doing nothing.
This skewed representation of "moments" on social media is problematic because life is not just a string of happy moments and incredible memories. It also has an equal amount of ugliness - experiences that leave us angry, frustrated, sad, and in pain. And when you only see the former on your social media feeds, it gives you the impression that everyone's life is hot and happening while you are pretty much stuck on your couch wasting your life.
This leads to depression because it makes you think that the uglier side of life is not normal, and therefore, you must be a big f**k-up if you aren't "living it up" like your friends.
3. It Makes You Feel Inadequate
If all the girls on Instagram have big booties and a perfectly-toned abdomen, while you have a non-existent ass and a "pregnant flab" belly, wouldn't that make you feel like an uncool kid? Of course, it would!
That's the power of social media.
From body-image issues to self-esteem problems, social media is like a more personable advertisement hell-hole that constantly makes you feel inadequate by showing you how much your friends have in life and how much you don't.
4. It Makes You Jealous And Promotes One-Upmanship Behaviour
Ever seen someone's gorgeous wedding photo-shoot and then watched a more extravagant and creative photo-shoot show up on your feed when a mutual friend got married? Of course, you have! So have I.
Social media's skewed perspective of life combined with its ability to make us feel inadequate is the perfect recipe for jealousy. No wonder, so many people try to one-up each other's "social media accomplishments".
It's a vicious cycle that sooner or later will leave you depressed.
5. Virtual Friendships Are Just That…Virtual
Studies have shown that an individual's closest circle consists of only 5 true friends at any point in time, even if they are part of a larger clique. The next circle of intimacy consists of a maximum of 10 people. Casual friends can be up to 35 people. And finally, you can have a maximum of a 100 acquaintances.
So the size of your friend's list on social media actually does not matter. Because real friendships are built over time through shared experiences after overcoming conflicts and personal flaws. None of which can be done in virtual space.
No wonder, people feel more isolated after using social media than when they do solo things on their own.
Deleting your social media accounts is not the answer. Instead, enjoy it in moderation just the way you would enjoy an occasional glass of alcohol or a small joint of weed.