Advances in technology and the emergence of social networking sites

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In today's increasingly digital era, technological advances and the advent of social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram have drastically changed the way we connect, socialize, and communicate. These websites assist us in making and maintaining foreign friendships. Although technology and social media sites have their advantages, they also have their drawbacks. Individuals in today's world, especially young adults, spend the majority of their time sifting through social media sites. They miss out on the chance to learn the requisite social and emotional skills. They are also vulnerable to cyberbullying and other social media threats. The aim of this study is to see if there is a correlation between depression and social media. Studies by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have shown that there is a positive link between increased use of social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with depression. A report published in Computers in Human Behavior in the year 2016 revealed that social media sites lead to negative mental outcomes like anxiety and depression (Chowdhry, 2016). The research by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine surveyed 1787 young individuals across the nation. They were interviewed on their use of eleven most popular social networking sites including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Vine, Pinterest, Google Plus, Tumblr and LinkedIn. The study showed that people who used seven or more social networking sites stood a high risk of suffering from mental issues such as depression and anxiety disorders. However, the risk was much lower in people who used less than two social media sites (Zagorski, 2017).
There are several possible explanations for the link between depression and the social media use. One is that individuals who use numerous social networking sites tend to multitask frequently. Frequent switch from one site to another leads to poorer cognition, low attention span, and mood disorder in people (Zargorski, 2017).
Furthermore, depressed people begin to use social networking platforms more because they lack the motivation to engage in real-life social interactions. This is according to the director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Brian Primack. He argues that people start heavily utilizing social media as way drowning their negative thoughts, only to make the depression worse (Chowdhry, 2016).
Studies by the Royal Society for Public Health show that there was a rise in depression rates from 8.7 percent to 11.3 percent between 2005 and 2015 among adolescents. There was also a rise from 8.8 to 9.8 in the same timeframe in young adults (Hurley, 2017). Major depression is expressed in the form of sadness and loss of interest in important life activities. Major depression lasts for at least two weeks. Depressed people also express other signs and symptoms like irritability, lack of self-care, weight gain or loss, insomnia, physical exhaustion, social isolation, and suicidal feelings. Depression can negatively impact social interaction and cause poor performance in school and work.
Instagram has been singled as the worst social media platform in relation to depression (Chowdry, 2016). The social networking sites are heavily associated with emotional problems in teenagers and young adults. Although the site has some benefits like offering a platform for self-identity and expression, the risks associated with its use are also obvious. For instance, it can place a lot of pressure among people to conform to certain social and cultural standards (Chowdhry, 2016). It can also act as a platform for bullying. Social media photos and posts can create unrealistic standards and expectations, leading to a feeling of low self-esteem and self-adequacy of those who cannot meet the set expectations. Viewing people posting photos on Facebook and Instagram dressed in a specific or doing some enjoyable activity can make other people feel that their lives are not good enough. Social media gets us depressed through drawing comparisons and despair attitude between ourselves and others (Baines, n.d.).
The fact that Instagram is the most harmful site when it comes to causing depression is hardly surprising. Instagram alongside SnapChat is more image-centered and could create a feeling poor self-image and esteem among the young people. For instance, if one saw his or her friend enjoying a vacation in Portugal and having a completely happy life, he or she will begin feeling inadequate and be wondering why other people are having a perfect experience while for them life is miserable. Using social media people begin drawing a negative comparison between their lives and the lives of other people. In most cases, social media portrays a false image of peoples’ lives. Most of the images on social media are often edited and distorted to portray a certain impression of people (Zilles, 2017). In real life, these people may be leaving a completely different life from the one expressed on social media sites. On social media people normally put their best on display, but this not usually an actual reflection of their real life. This culture of false portrayal on social media leads to unnecessary comparisons and anxiety in people (Zilles, 2017).
Besides, there is information overload that comes with increased use of social networking sites like Facebook. There are numerous social media sites on offer, and most of the people use at least two of them. Imagine the constant stream of information and notifications from about four social media sites in addition to information and notification from text messages and emails. This creates information overload leading to a feeling of overstimulation. The overwhelming nature of social media platforms can lead to anxiety and depression in people. Massive information inflow also creates a feeling of distraction (Zagorski, 2017). People live in a world where distraction is a huge problem because of social media. With information emanating from every corner, it is easy to pay attention to the wrong information while ignoring the right one. A study conducted by Harris revealed that people waste 38 percent of their work time scrolling and managing their social media accounts (Baines, n.d.). There is also a significant chunk of time in our personal lives wasted on social media. An average person spends two hours in a single day going through different social media platforms. Too much time spend on social media sites, and the distraction that results leads to fewer accomplishments in personal and professional lives and reduced real-life social interactions. Low levels of attainment in life can create negative feelings and cause anxiety in people (Zagorski, 2017).
Social media platforms have significant emotional risks that cannot be ignored. Since bursting onto the scene in 2004, social networking site, Facebook has grown from humble beginnings to register over 1.71 billion active members by the year 2016. It has become a central tool for communication and interaction in an increasingly modern world (Vitelli, 2016). The negative effects of Facebook on mental health are now coming to light. In this age where cases of cyber stalking and bullying have become rampant, Facebook has become a playground for such acts (Vitelli, 2016). On a daily basis, ladies, in particular, have to deal with unwanted attention from total strangers. The mental effects on the recipients of unwanted online attention are enormous. They include anxiety, depression, and irritability. Victims of social media harassment feel low and some become suicidal. Social media sites also form platforms for rumors, unnecessary arguments, and propaganda that cause an adrenaline rush in users. A sense of negativity can be spread through this site, creating negative feelings in that process (Baines, n.d.).
The increased use of social media causes harmful effect on people’s health. There are problems associated with vision, back and neck issues and the general sedentary life that increased use of social media causes. Excessive use of social media reduces the time for physical exercises. The sedentary lifestyle that results from excess use of social networking sites leads to health conditions like obesity. These health conditions are in themselves risk factors for depression (Baines, n.d.).
Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat, are major causes of real-life social isolation. Although people feel virtually connected on social media sites real-life interaction with people are often affected if too much time is spent on this sites. Excessive use of social media also affects our ability to communicate. While it is true that social media sites can help us communicate across a broad range of distances and update us on what is going on in other peoples’ lives, there are hidden risks that come with the extreme use of these sites (Baines, n.d.). People limit interactions with those who are within their vicinities to communicate with others who are miles away. For example, it is common to find people going through Facebook and Instagram during social gatherings. As a result, they miss out on real conservations and create a sense of loneliness (Baines, n.d.). Lack of person to person contact and interaction is a huge contributor to depression. Social media cannot provide the social support that people need when they are facing problems in life.
Excessive use of social media creates an addiction just like drugs and alcohol do. When people cannot access their popular social networking site for one reason or the other, they become depressed and withdrawn just like an alcoholic who cannot access his or her bottle of beer. Sometimes they become very irritable and anxious (Baines, n.d.).
To conclude, social networking sites have increased the rate at which people interact in their day to day lives. People can now keep in touch with friends and family in a more convenient and fast way. Social media has also become an engine for information, passing it across the globe at bewildering speed. But beyond this, social media use has become a risk factor for depression among the young individuals. Issues of cyber bullying and cyber stalking have become rife in this age of social media. There is also the social and cultural pressure that is created on medial social sites. These sites have set certain standards in terms of how people should dress and how their bodies should look like. Those who cannot meet these expectations end up being depressed.

References

Baines, W. (n.d.). 7 ways social media is making you depressed. Beliefnet. Retrieved on Oct. 23, 2017 from: http://www.beliefnet.com/wellness/health/emotional-health/depression/7-ways-social-media-is-making-you-depressed.aspx?
Chowdhry, A. (2016). Research links heavy facebook and social media usage to depression. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved on Oct. 23, 2017 from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/amitchowdhry/2016/04/30/study-links-heavy-facebook-and-social-media-usage-to-depression/#27914d7a4b53
Hurley, K. (2017). Is social media messing with your teen’s mental health? PSYCOM. Retrieved on Oct. 23, 2017 from: https://www.psycom.net/depression-teens-social-media
Vitelli, R. (2016). When social media sparks depression. Psychology Today. Retrieved on Oct. 23, 2017 from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201609/when-social-media-sparks-depression
Zagorski, N. (2017). Using many social media platforms linked with depression, anxiety risk. American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved on Oct. 23, 2017 from: http://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.pn.2017.1b16
Zilles, C. (2017). The surprising link between social media and depression. Socialmedia hq. Retrieved on Oct. 23, 2017 from: https://socialmediahq.com/surprising-link-social-media-depression/

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