The latest Sensis report showed 99 per cent of Australians aged 18-29 years use some of social media.
This was closely followed by 96 per cent of people aged 30-39 years and finally 86 per cent of people aged 40-49.
More alarming, 56 per cent of social media users will check social media greater than five times a day and often for periods greater than 10 minutes each use, this equates to greater than 50 minutes per day.
Social media is becomes a big part of our lives and that of our loved ones.
For this reason, it is especially important we understand the overall impact social media can have on our mental health.
Do you show any of these social media addiction symptoms?
Social media’s wider benefits
The positive effects of social media sites like Facebook and Instagram include their ability to connect like-minded people, maintain relationships with friends and family, encourage self expression and offering more opportunities to build supportive communities.
Social media especially harbours a concept called “virtual empathy” which refers to a person’s ability to try and understand or share another person’s emotional state.
It isn’t as effective as real world empathy but still has a potential to make a person feel supported and connected.
An important example is BeyondBlue, which uses online platforms to provide support and evidenced- based information to those with mental health issues and their families through their website, social media and website “chat” features.
Social media’s negative effects
The negative impact of social media on mental health is difficult to determine, especially after only recent regular access to good quality evidence in this area.
The main concerns of social media on our mental health include:
- Increased use can result in a lack of interpersonal communication with family and loved ones. This can impact social developments in children and adolescence, especially as the relationships built online can often be superficial, shallow and unlikely to provide the same benefits as face-to-face communication.
- More time spent on social media the higher chance of experiencing an increase in depressive symptoms. This is likely due to people perceiving (often wrongly) to have less desirable physical and personality traits than others, creating a sense of insignificance. Additionally research has shown Instagram is the worst culprit.
- Social media is addictive, research shows when you receive a “like” it leaves you wanting another-using a similar feedback loop as other addictions like gambling, sex and drugs.
- Online bulling is surprisingly higher in rural and regional areas than in the city- the reason for this remains unknown but the consequences of any type of bullying can be severe and can negatively impact children and adolescents well after the events.
Reducing social media use can be difficult and is often a hard conversation between parents and adolescents, but here are a few tips to reduce everyone social media usage:
- Remember future employers can check your online presence, think before you post and ensure your privacy settings are reviewed regularly.
- No phones at meals- my mother always had a no phones at dinner table policy, this has always stuck with me.
- No phones at least 30 minutes before bed to minimise the impact of social media and technology on sleep quality.
- 4. Disconnect- I personally don’t have Facebook on my mobile, this prevents me from mindlessly scrolling through social media just because I’m bored, stressed or procrastinating.
- 5. Have open conversations with your children, focus on the risks and boundaries on usage.
If you are concerned about yourself or your loved one’s talk to your health professionals or check the following online resources.
- headspace.org.au/young-people/category/mental- health