Does Social Media Have An Impact On Mental Health

Lindsay Labady, Staff Writer

Living in a world revolving around social media like TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and other platforms has certainly impacted our mental health. 

About two-thirds of Americans (64%) say social media has a mostly negative effect on them, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted between July 13-19, 2020. Just one-in-ten Americans say social media sites have a mostly positive effect.

I often hear my friends and family telling me how depressed they feel scrolling down their social media homepage because they’re comparing themselves to others. They compare themselves to others in terms of their friendships, romantic relationships, careers, money, as well as other important aspects of one’s life. They see images on social media and believe that these people have a much better life than their own. When everyone looks like they’re always having the best time, which is often what social media portrays, it creates unrealistic standards that are impossible to maintain in the everyday reality of life. According to Pew Research, 88% of women and 65% of men said they compare themselves to others on social media.

Another issue: evaluating our own posts. How many times have you posted something and asked yourself, “What if no one likes it or comments?” I know that I have. The truth is a lot of time is wasted thinking about what to post and how to post it. Posting to social media often forces a person to overthink their post and question themselves. Thinking before you post is good, but overthinking is not. 

Instead of simply enjoying social media and posting images or videos of things we enjoy, many of us wonder, “Will this look stupid?” “Will people make fun of me?” or “Is this picture post-worthy?” So much time and energy is spent worrying about how others will respond to our posts that people miss out on the true purpose of the platform. This angst can lead to anxiety and depression, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. In fact, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported in 2019 that serious depression and anxiety has been on the rise among teens for the past several years.

Then there’s the comparison of looks and body. Face and body image is a major factor for one’s self-esteem, especially teenagers’ self-esteem. For girls, we see a photo of a model on  Instagram or Tik Tok and wonder – why don’t I look like that? Why can’t I have that body? Why can’t I have that face?”

According to a National Institute on Media and the Family study on teen health, 53% of American girls are “unhappy with their bodies” by the age of thirteen. This increases to 78% by the time girls reach age seventeen. 50% of teenage girls practice unhealthy behaviors to lose weight, including skipping meals, vomiting, smoking cigarettes, fasting, and using laxatives.

While teenage girls are disproportionately affected by body image messages, teenage boys are not immune. Many young men struggle with low self-esteem associated with weight and body issues. According to, a global movement creating positive change for millions of young people, 30% of teen boys practice unhealthy behaviors to lose weight or gain muscle mass such as using protein supplements, smoking cigarettes, fasting, using laxatives, and 6% even admitted to experimenting with steroids.

According to Jan Schaffer the executive director at J-Lab, a catalyst and incubator for news entrepreneurs and innovators, “people’s social and emotional intelligence have been impaired by the misuse of social media. The misuse of social media will lead to more increased depression.” But there are answers and ways to make sure that you are protected and engaging with social media in a more positive manner.

Social media users, if you find yourself feeling bad after using your accounts, consider unfollowing those users who are causing any negative feelings. I would also advise you to take breaks from social media by going on walks, reading books, and hanging out with family or friends. Nobody’s perfect but your mental health is much more important than looking cool on social media, having the perfect social media life, or looking like one of those perfect models on Instagram.