New study indicates too much social media use causes depression. CHS students, staff search for balance between online, real life
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Until last year, Priyanka Subrahmanyam, former social media user and sophomore, struggled daily to resist the temptation of social media. During every part of her day, Subrahmanyam felt the compulsive need to check her phone, constantly monitoring her notifications and keeping close tabs on her social media presence.
“I didn’t have good time management, and I would just procrastinate everything. Just like that, an hour would be gone, and it was because I had my phone near me all the time,” Subrahmanyam said.
Subrahmanyam said her social media use had a far-reaching impact, causing social pressure and taking up much of her free time. She said she decided to take a hiatus from Snapchat in hopes of decreasing her dependence on social media.
“I’m that kind of person where I care too much about what people think. I don’t have this problem much anymore, but before I deleted Snapchat, I used to. Somebody would send me a Snapchat and I would be like, ‘Okay, so I need to respond to this person right away because they’re not going to like me anymore if I don’t respond to it,’” Subrahmanyam said.
According to a 2016 study published by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, high levels of social media use directly increase the probability of developing depression and anxiety, especially in young adults. This data raises concerns for today’s teens, many of whom put great emphasis on their online presence.
Danial Tajwer, social media user and sophomore, said he agrees with research showing social media to be a likely cause of teen depression.
“People see their self-value in terms of getting responded to and gettinPg Instagram likes and having a certain amount of (Snapchat) streaks and having a high Snapchat score; social media has contributed in that regard. We’re able to much more quantify how popular you feel you are or how important you feel you are, and that also translates to self-worth,” Tajwer said.
Since social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat put people on display and allow other users to indicate whether or not they approve of content, it is far easier for people to quantify how their peers perceive them. When they focus too much on the number of likes (on Instagram) or Snapchats they get, social media users start to determine their self-worth based on how others think of them instead of their own happiness.
IB Psychology teacher Peter O’Hara said, “If (social media) is your only means of establishing self-worth, then there’s going to be a problem. You need to establish self-worth from how you feel about yourself personally; don’t worry about what others think.”
Though social media may be a cause of depression, O’Hara said the phenomenon of teens’ need for validation influencing their mental health is universal.
O’Hara said depression in teens is not significantly different from depression found in other age groups. He said depression stems from a multitude of factors, such as a traumatic event or a problem within a relationship, and social media acts as a conduit.
“Social media is just an extension of everyday life. Things that happen in everyday life that could cause depression can happen through social media,” he said.
Social media is a way for teens to compare themselves to others. However, without it, teenagers would still seek validation in many different ways.
However, despite its association with depression, social media may be a necessary evil.
According to a 2015 Pew Research study, social networking use has skyrocketed since 2005. The amount of adults who use social networking sites has risen from seven to 65 percent over the course of ten years. With such widespread use, online social skills are increasingly important, especially within the work force.
Tajwer said, “I feel like businesses, if they don’t see a social media profile, they actually get the concern that you are an antisocial person, which may not be that conducive in the labor force. You need to encourage social media to the extent that you don’t remain awkward on the internet. You need to be literate with these types of things just because that is the communication of our generation.”
O’Hara said overall, social media is positive because it is a continuation of the technological revolution that has been taking place over the last few decades.
“When I was a kid, we didn’t have Twitter, I didn’t carry around a cell phone, but we used to get on our regular phones for hours at a time and our parents would be upset about it. The generation before me, they had the transistor radios. My dad, he had a little radio, and they would hold it up to their ear and listen to them, and that was such a ‘horrible thing’ to the older generation,” O’Hara said. “I personally don’t think (social media) is a whole lot different.”
Social media has both positive and negative effects. According to Subrahmanyam, the key to maintaining healthy benefits is to use it in moderation.
“When I deleted Snapchat for a few months, I realized how much more time I had in the day; extra seconds carrying into extra minutes into extra hours. Now I have Snapchat back, and it’s not a problem anymore because I’ve experienced so many months without it that I just kind of learned how to control myself when I use it,” Subrahmanyam said.
Tajwer said he agrees it is possible to find a healthy balance between social media usage and real-life engagement.
Tajwer said, “There are those people who snap constantly throughout the day, every day. Not only relationships, but probably it also serves as a detriment to their academic performance as well. But in moderation, as I do, I think it’s a good way to connect with people.”
Subrahmanyam said, “(Social media) is a good thing to have to communicate with people; it’s convenient and it’s easy (to use), but I think that our generation is taking it a little too far (in) that we use it for every single thing. It’s like our third hand. We’re too dependent on it. I think that we should really make an effort to become less reliant on it and integrate ourselves more in conversations.”