Instagram and Mental Health

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Depression through social media

Every social network thinks it's good at first. Twitter was a place for rush news and progressive views. Facebook shared private photos and updates with friends and family. Instagram wasn't about individuals at the beginning; The focus was on art, style and photography. Although each of these platforms has retained aspects from the early days, the past social media decade also clearly shows its gloomy sides. Twitter can hardly save itself from hate speech and conflict. Facebook's privacy policies are always up for discussion, as our data has been sold to companies and political parties. Instagram has been repeatedly voted the worst app for young people's psyches , due to the unrealistic portrayal of beauty and success, favoured by paid influencers, but also by the majority of users who want to present their "best self" to others.

There are large cohort studies on the effects of social media on young people, including a study by JAMA Psychiatry of 6,600 adolescents from the US. The study found that adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media are more prone to anxiety and depression. A study of 16,000 adolescents from China published by Elsevier also found a link between more on-screen time and depression. According to the authors, the data collected posed "a significant risk to public health." In a UK survey, 61 per cent of girls aged 11 to 21 said they felt they had to look "perfect" (Girl's Attitudes Survey). Most of these studies, however, only tell us what we already know and what we find in ourselves. It is difficult to obtain quantitative data that deals precisely with how social media influences our behavior, because the technologies are so new and constantly evolving. However, some of the rough patterns that make up our generational experience can already be seen.

 

We can draw these insights from our social media experience over the past decade:

Who knows the feeling of boredom? While waiting in line? In the waiting room at the dentist? Today, we are only bored when the mobile phone battery is all and no charger in sight. Known to most as a feeling of panic. Over the past 20 years, the human attention span has dropped to eight seconds, which is less than a goldfish. Constant notifications, endless scrolling, automatic video playback, and pretty, colorful apps greatly affect our ability to concentrate. "There is evidence that a mobile phone nearby alone makes it difficult to concentrate even when the phone is not actively used," says Erin Vogel, a social psychologist from San Francisco.

As former Google design ethicist and Silicon Valley rebel Tristan Harris explains in his TED Talk on "How a handful of tech companies control a billion heads a day," social media has been psychologically designed in such a way that we want to keep coming back to them. Apps compete with each other for consumer time, which is also known as the "attention economy." And the house always wins. "My attention span is over," says social media specialist Natasha Slee, who creates social media strategies and content for media brands. "The poster by Douglas Coupland with the inscription 'I miss my pre-internet brain' is especially in my memory. I miss what I used to do in between before I had the reflex to reach for my phone and scroll.

Passive content consumption on the mobile phone takes time; Time we used to spend getting involved in our environment and talking offline. I often wonder what it would be like without it: would I be smarter? Would my relationship be better? Would I be fitter? More cultivated?"

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