We previously discussed some of the negative effects that social media can have on people of all ages. But does science back up those ideas?
Here are four things to know about social media, according to research.
1. We need better studies about social media’s impact.
Social media is still a relatively new phenomenon. According to a 2020 review in the International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, there is still a lack of robust, high-quality studies about the impact of social media.
Some studies suggest an association between social media use and anxiety. Others, however, found no such connection.
Which is it? More and better studies could help us get a better picture.
2. With social media platforms, less is more.
So experts disagree on whether spending more time on social media contributes to mental illness. But what about the number of platforms you use?
A 2017 survey of U.S. adults, aged 19-32, asked that same question. Adults who used 7–11 social media platforms were significantly more likely to have greater levels of depression or anxiety symptoms compared to those who used 0–2 social media platforms.
In fact, the associations were so strong that the authors recommended that clinicians take multiple platform use into consideration when counseling clients with depression and anxiety. Full results appear in Computers in Human Behavior.
3. Social media behavior is associated with eating disorders, but it’s complicated.
Social media has made it easier for people to compare themselves to others. So it’s not surprising that research suggests a complicated relationship between eating disorder behaviors and social media use.
One study, published in Social Media + Society, found that some social media activities, such as lurking (looking at another person’s profile without communicating with them), were related to body image in young adults. Total time spent on social media did not have this association, but it was associated with eating disorder symptoms and concerns.
People who use more visual social media platforms are more likely to see “thinspiration” and “fitspiration” content that celebrates weight loss and fitness goals. For individuals with self-reported eating disorders, this may be associated with more frequent physical appearance comparisons, and potentially more severe symptoms. Researchers described their findings in a 2018 issue of Body Image.
4. Better awareness of social media could still have benefits.
Often we don’t realize just how much time we spend on social media. Fortunately, a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology in 2018 found that being more aware of our social media usage could help us scale back—and improve general wellbeing.
Researchers randomly assigned a group of 143 college undergraduates to either limit social media use to 10 minutes a day for each platform, or to use it as usual for three weeks. The group that limited their social media use reported significantly less loneliness and depression over that time compared to the as-usual group. However, both groups showed lower anxiety and “fear of missing out.”
There is still a lot that we don’t know about social media’s effects on individuals and society. Behavioral health providers should make sure to discuss social media usage with their clients and how it may affect treatment plans and healthy lifestyle choices.
Are you struggling with the burdens of documentation? BestNotes EHR solutions help you maintain accurate, efficient documentation that automatically updates to the latest federal, state, and accreditation requirements. Contact us today to find out more and schedule your free demo!