Lilian Min
Updated Jul 29, 2015 @ 12:31 pm
social media mental health

You don’t have to be a psychologist to know that social media sometimes feels totally time- and life-consuming. Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, and whatever other social channels teens are using, controlling and actively updating all of your social networks is basically a full-time job, on top of schoolwork, an IRL social life, and whatever hobbies you might have. But lest you think that the adult outrage over social media—aka the “When I was young” argument—is totally bogus, a new study suggests that for children and teens, too much social media usage is linked to poor psychological health.

Researchers in Ottawa, Canada studied a sample of 753 students from grades 7-12 and tracked both the students’ social networks usage as well as their self-rated mental health. Some quick numbers: While 54.3% of the students surveyed reported using social networks for two hours or less every day, 25.2% of students reported using it for over two hours. (20.5% of students said they used networks infrequently or not at all, but people of all ages love to underreport their social media usage.) But, what does this all mean? Well, according to the researchers:

Whoa. That makes some sense when you consider that other research suggests that 48% of teens haven’t had an online experience that makes them feel good about themselves, and that anxiety is the biggest health issue among college students. All that social networking and the comparisons and interactions on those platforms are taking a toll on some of the medium’s most ardent users.

The study doesn’t attempt to draw a firm correlation between mental health and social media; instead, it serves to underscore that social media exacerbates and exaggerates existing feelings. As the study’s lead author suggests to The Huffington Post, “It could be that teens with mental health problems are seeking out interactions as they are feeling isolated and alone. Or they would like to satisfy unmet needs for face-to-face mental health support.”

We’re all for using the Internet to connect people and form communities, but as with just about everything, moderation is key. Sure, selfies can be empowering, especially for women and girls, but the digital world isn’t going to magically give you all of the things you want or want to be in your real life. For your real life problems, please seek real life help — and maybe ease up a little on your online feed scrolling.

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