Controversial Impact of Social Media on Mental Health of Students

mental health of students

Recent advances in internet technologies have created an entirely new digital world with immediate access to information. Communication has become more open, and people have received an opportunity to share daily life online. Furthermore, social media changes the way people represent themselves, creating their online image in the way they want. Students and other young people are among the biggest groups that regularly use social media in their daily lives. During the dawn of internet technologies, impact of social media on mental health of students were not sufficiently addressed.

Social media has a more profound impact on all human life domains, calling for an urgent need to study the effects of social media platforms on students mental health. Nowadays, people understand that numerous mental health concerns hide under the guise of accessible and open communication. As of 2024, there are 5.04 billion people in the world who use social media.

Understanding the effects of social media on students mental health provides valuable insights for everyone to make digital journeys healthier. Take a look at what contemporary research says.

Impact of Social Media on Mental Health of Students Research Data

Apparently, social media is not the absolute evil that is usually portrayed in mass media. The recent impact of social media on mental health of students research paper analyzed more than 11 articles and research papers, concluding that 45% of researchers found social media consumption consequences are neither positive nor negative. Furthermore, the authors refer to another paper, claiming that using social media can even prevent depression and anxiety by timely recognizing symptoms. So why does it seem that social media brings more harm than good? The answer is as controversial and unclear as the topic itself.

Social media usually creates a distorted representation of reality, as people tend to share only the positive or edited aspects of their lives.

Other people may feel jealous or inferior to the ideal image of success. Fueled by amplified negative aspects of human nature, such as envy, insecurity, aggression, or deception, people tend to react to some information online emotionally. Add in the overwhelming amount of inaccurate, unreliable, and manipulated data, and social media becomes the hotbed of negativity and radicalization. Let’s take a look at the proven negative impact of social media on mental health of students.

Proven significant negative effects of social media on students mental health

impact of social media on mental health of students

  • Cyberbullying

The evolving landscape of internet communication gave rise to an entirely new type of harassment – cyberbullying. According to a comprehensive study by the Pew Research Center, around 59% of teen students who completed the impact of social media on students’ mental health questionnaire reported any type of cyberbullying, including offensive name-calling, spreading false rumors, and receiving explicit images they did not ask for. Scientists, parents, and students themselves consider this aspect a major negative drawback of social media that can lead to even more significant mental issues.

  • Depression and anxiety

Numerous studies have already examined the relationship between social media consumption and its contribution to depression and anxiety. McCrae and Grealish, in their study, claim that people should not expect a direct relationship between these factors. However, the authors admit that scientific correlation (which may not guarantee a direct relationship) is indeed present in time spent, activity, investment, and addiction to social media. It means that people who spend too much time and are highly engaged in online activities are more likely to develop depression and anxiety.

  • Isolation and FOMO

Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a relatively new term that emerged due to the rapid development of social media. Adams et al. study explored this concept, claiming that students and other social media users are subconsciously afraid of missing some engaging activities while they are not online. Despite the seemingly low impact on overall well-being, evidence suggests that FOMO can greatly contribute to overall increased anxiety, social anxiety disorder, and separation anxiety disorder.

Digital Media World: Top Pros & Cons

Is there any positive impact of social media on mental health of students

Despite compelling evidence about social media’s negative effects of social media on mental health of students, no one refutes numerous positive aspects of digital communication. Most studies that primarily focus on adverse aspects of social media admit benefits for both mental and physical health. The proponents of social media usually outline the following advantages:

  • Social interactions. In one way or another, all social media play a primary role–communication. This effect of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms is due to not only sharing content options but also engaging in discussion. Nowadays, people find online communication even more convenient than in person. No one is surprised that through the Internet, people find their love, argue, and reconcile.
  • Mental support. Social media proved itself a powerful platform for people in need, who can always receive support or advice from others. Numerous groups, forums, and discussion threads help people cope with their mental problems, addictions, or traumas. Some researchers even state that social media and other internet technologies may become a core of comprehensive psychiatry interventions.
  • Self-expression. Digital platforms have quickly become places for free self-expression and presentation. Nowadays, people can speak openly not only about themselves but also be valuable advocates for change. Social media allows people to show their talents, skills, and achievements to develop their identity, confidence, self-esteem, and sense of belonging.

positive impact of social media on mental health of students

It is almost impossible to find a person who perceives social media as pure evil:

Matt, a student from California, is an evident example of social media’s positive effects: “Actually, I found it challenging to communicate with others, but online… you know, it’s kinda easier. My first friends were online. We spent a lot of time together, and it motivated me to move on and expand my social circle in real life.”

Meanwhile, social media helped Barbara from Ohio to launch her small business: “When I started to make wedding decorations as a hobby, I thought, why won’t I share it with others and have my moment in the spotlight? My Facebook post became viral, and I started to receive orders from people who wanted to purchase my pieces. That was a miracle!”

What Can We Do to Make Time Spent in the Digital World Safer for Health?

The evidence reveals that the impact of social media on mental health of students can be both positive and negative. Therefore, it is essential for students to use social media responsibly and healthily. A mindful consumption of digital technologies will help to mitigate the adverse effects of social media on students and obtain maximum advantage. Here are some tips on how to do that:

a) Be conscious. You should clearly know how much time you spend on social media and how it affects your mood, thoughts, or behavior. Monitor your social media consumption and reflect on how you feel when you overuse digital technologies. Set limits on your usage, and stick to them consistently.
b) Be respectful. Do not bully, harass, or insult anyone – always reflect your behavior on yourself. Do not be the source of rumors, gossip, or false information, and respect everyone’s privacy or personal space. In a modern, diverse, and transparent world, treating everyone with respect is essential.
c) Be authentic. Do not pretend to be someone you are not, and be yourself on social media. Present your authentic achievements, experiences, or opinions. Still, be cautious in terms of sensitive and private information about your career and college life. Do not seek approval from others at the expense of your own happiness.
d) Be balanced. Balance your use of social media so it does not take over your life. Pay attention to your offline responsibilities, interests, job, and relationships. Do not isolate yourself from the real world, and remember to enjoy the present moment.

Final Thoughts on the Impact of Social Media on Mental Health of Students

Today’s digital age has created a growing concern about the impact of social media on the mental health of students and other active internet users. While social media platforms offer numerous benefits, from facilitating connections with peers to providing valuable information, the negative consequences cannot be ignored.

Various evidence suggests that excessive social media consumption greatly contributes to the development of depression and anxiety disorders. It becomes clear that students should approach their social media usage with mindfulness, balancing their online and offline lives to foster a healthier digital environment.

Furthermore, people should recognize and focus on the potential for positive impact. Social media platforms can also serve as a source of emotional support, enabling students to share their experiences, connect with others, and access valuable information. With the right approach, students can harness the benefits while mitigating the risks. The impact of social media on the mental health of students is a dynamic and evolving topic, and as the digital landscape continues to change, it is crucial for students to adapt, seek support when needed, and prioritize their mental well-being.

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Published by
Alice Dartnell
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Alice is a life and success coach who empowers people to create a “life by design.” She specializes in bringing together time management, well-being, and productivity in crafting the life you want. She also works with organizations to maximize the output and mental wellness of the staff.