Social Media, Self-Esteem, and Teen Suicide

Through social media, we see someone’s edited life. Sometimes people might find themselves comparing their own lives with these updates and photos. The comparisons people make to the unreality is unfair. The comparisons people make causes feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem. It is clear the relationship between our social media habits and mental health is complex. As social media leaves a mark in both our world and daily lives, it is important we learn more about the long term effects on our mental health.

So, what keeps motivating people to actively use social media? There are neurotransmitters in peoples’ brains that leave the person feeling content after it has been released. A like on Instagram or a favorite on Twitter releases dopamine, which is a compound that has the same effect as getting a good grade on a test. FOMO(Fear of Missing Out) is a large driver of social network use, particularly for teenagers. A study from Harvard University showed that self-disclosure and comparison to other people online trigger up a part of the brain that also lights up when taking an addictive substance.

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A research group conducted an experiment: fifty-one people participated. The fifty-one test subjects would record data such as the time of usage of social media, social media apps used, mental health diagnoses. This study was conducted in order to show the demographics of The average of completed assessments did not differ between males and females, on the basis of whether a participant borrowed or owned the phone that was used for data entry, employment status or level of education.

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Finally, there was no correlation between age. This study shows the demographics of people that acquired mental health issues after using social media.

Facebook was found to have negative effects in the categories of bullying, body image, FOMO, anxiety, and depression. Instagram was found to have the most negative overall effect on teenagers’ mental health. This photo-sharing app is similar to Facebook, impacts bullying, body image, FOMO, and leads to greater feelings of anxiety and depression. The social network that had many positive effects on mental health was YouTube. YouTube was also the only social media platform where anxiety and depression, lessened with each use. This social media platform showed positive effects in categories like awareness, community building, and self-expression. However, a negative effect on YouTube was that it has a negative effect on sleep.

Suicide prevention experts are wondering if enough is being done to protect teenagers on social media platforms. Recent studies have shown a rise in both self-harm, particularly among girls, and teen suicide. A report in August found the suicide rate among teenage girls ages 15 to 19 showed a constant increase. Between 2007 and 2015, the suicide rates doubled among teenage girls and rose by 30 percent among teenage boys. Additionally, researchers in the U.K. found similar outcomes in a study on self-harm that showed a significant increase in the number of adolescent girls who engaged in self-harm.

What are the mental illnesses people pick up while using social media? A new study shows that there is a link between the use of social media and negative effects on well-being, primarily depression. A study was conducted where 143 students were assigned to one of two groups. One group would try to limit their access to social media, while the other group continued to use social media normally. The results were clear; the group that tried to use less social media, even though it was not completely eliminated, had better mental health outcomes. This study was conducted to detect mental health illnesses after using social media. Data for the students were recorded before the experiment, in categories such as FOMO, social support, anxiety, depressions, and self-acceptance. At the end of the study, those in the group where access to social media was limited, also saw depressive symptoms decline.

There are also several studies that link social media to anxiety and compulsive behavior. A recent research study found that 45% of teenagers showed behaviors of anxiety or discomfort when they cannot check their notifications or social media sites. It was also found that younger generations are checking in very often with their messages and social networks. Predictably, younger generations were found as more anxious than older generations when they were not able to check their social networks and texts.

Everyone agrees that protecting teenagers online is of great importance. However, there are conflicts between larger social media platforms and the government. The government is threatening to redefine differently the intentions of social media platforms if they will not act voluntarily. One country that has been actively trying to promote health above social media companies in the United Kingdom. The digital minister, Margot James, is expected to announce proposals, saying that the government will introduce laws that force social media platforms to remove illegal content and to prioritize the protection of teenagers and adolescents beyond their interests. Parliament has also been suggesting its form of regulation. Last week, the science and technology committee concluded that social media companies must consider helping protect young people’s health and wellbeing when accessing their platforms.

This current group of emerging adults is the first to have used phones and social media for the remainder of their lives. Not surprisingly, in the U.S., this group of teenagers is most likely to use social media almost every day. For this reason, current emerging adults have been referred to as ‘digital natives’. Psychological research reports adolescence as a period of increased vulnerability to mental disorders. Psychological research is starting to recognize that emerging adulthood is also an important period that shows sensitivity to the development of disorders like addiction, and also like depression. This kind of instability can leave a person vulnerable to further changes, which could develop into a disorder.

Developmental task theory is the statement that proves that development is continuous throughout the entire lifespan, where an individual moves from one stage to the next after successful achievement of solving problems. Developmental tasks show both human development and the impact of the surrounding environment. For example, as an adolescent, they would be expected to do well in school and create close friendships, and as an adult, the developmental tasks change to making romantic relationships, starting families, gainful employment, and civic engagement. This is when the mental illnesses acquired from a young age plays a role. Depressive illnesses in peoples’ young adults spend about a decade of their lives with the illnesses. Besides increased the likelihood of lifelong illness, young adult mental health issues also affect brain development in areas such as the prefrontal cortex.

Growing evidence suggests that behavioral addictions acquired during the stages of emerging adulthood are similar to substance addictions, including tolerance and response to treatment. This is why it is popularly believed that most major psychiatric problems develop during early adulthood. It is also important to see that some of the difficulties experienced in young adult life are from brain development. The neurobiological changes in brain structure that occur in adolescents make them more sensitive to changes in their larger environment.
There are a number of theories that help explain how social media shows a connection to mental health. Although many of these theories suggest that social media could be affecting mental health in young adults, none of them provided proof that social media use actually cause a decline in mental well-being.

One of these theories is the impact of sedentary, or inactive behavior on mental health. Evidence suggests that time spent sitting down, looking down at our phones, may also link to mental health. There are associations between sedentary behavior and mental health problems among teenagers. Studies reported screen time using social media among adolescents shows depressive symptoms, some due to sedentary behavior. Other mental health illnesses were suicidal thoughts, loneliness, and psychological distress.

Another theory is mental health regarding blue light. Social media has been proven to have an impact on sleep due to its addiction. Additionally, the emitted blue light of device screens is another factor that affects sleep deprivation for young social media users. During a two-week study, 12 participants read e-books on a light-emitting iPad for four hours before bedtime each night for five consecutive nights and followed the same regimen with printed books. Researchers found that participants reading on an e-book took longer to fall asleep and spent less time in sleep, and had decreased secretion of melatonin, a hormone that rises in the evening and induces sleepiness, had a delayed rhythm of more than an hour. This resulted in the participants to be less tired before bedtime and less alert in the following morning.

In the past decade or so, social media has crept from our computer screens onto the screens of peoples’ phones. With a tap, people can upload photos directly from their phones to their social media accounts and see what their friends have been doing. To gain control of further addiction, there are preventions people could take. Notifications are a constant reminder that something is happening in the online world. To overcome feelings of FOMO, people can turn off their notifications. Setting a timer to limit the amount of time you spend on social media is also highly recommended. Another way to push down feelings of addiction is for people to look at social media as a treat, rather than something that they must use. People can think of social media as a treat for themselves, only allowing themselves screen time when they have done something productive first. There are so many ways people can meet up with people face-to-face. Whatever activity they choose, people will be making connections with new people in reality instead of through a screen.

Mental issues acquired from social media should not be taken lightly. The platforms we use may give people more mental disabilities than people knew it. Anxiety, depression, concerns with self-image, and addiction is the results of the apps people use every day. Sedentary behavior and sleep deprivation might just be two of many categories that show a correlation between social media and mental health. People must be conscious of these mental health issues, and follow up with their plans to prevent further severe social media use.

Updated: May 19, 2021
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Social Media, Self-Esteem, and Teen Suicide. (2020, Oct 02). Retrieved from

Social Media, Self-Esteem, and Teen Suicide essay
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