Surprise! It’s Instagram! But you already knew that, didn’t you? A study by the Royal Society for Public Health in the U.K. surveyed young people between the ages of 14 and 24 to see how social media affected their mental health and well-being. Turns out almost all of the popular platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat – are associated with increased depression and anxiety. (YouTube is the only one that isn’t!)
So why is Instagram the worst? Well, since it’s based around personal photos, it tends to give people anxiety, FOMO, and body image issues – especially young girls and women who compare their bodies to other people’s photos and use filters to make themselves look better. Instagram, like other platforms, can create unrealistic expectations, feelings of inadequacy, and low self-esteem. I mean, don’t you just hate seeing people on vacation or having fun without you ALL the time?! The report says spending too many hours on social media can lead to a “compare and despair” attitude.
So what does all this science suggest we do about it? Well, apps could send users warnings when they’ve spent too much time on the platform for the day, or alert them when images have been digitally altered so they’re more aware. Governments could teach “safe social media use” in schools and maybe do more research into social media’s effects on mental health. Anything to get our eyes off the screen!
Oh, and the second-worst platform for mental wellbeing? Snapchat. But you probably already guessed that too…
Spark the Conversation: Odds are your girl knows when social media is making her feel bad about herself. Maybe it’s making her sad or anxious, but maybe she can’t pinpoint why. Or maybe she doesn’t realize that she’s not alone in these feelings and that most young people feel this way. Show her this study, and help her realize which platforms are the worst and why they might be hurting her self-esteem. Then discuss ways you can prevent these negative impacts, like limiting time online, learning about the emotional downsides to so much use, or maybe picking one platform a day rather than keeping up with ALL of them ALL the time!