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Keyana Pregent
Wendy Melnick

Can Social Media Dependence Lead to Mental Illness?

Meet 16-year-old Danny Bowman, like any average teenager, he

attended classes, social events with his friends, and took part in the exciting
world of social media. Feeling confident, Danny regularly posted photos of
himself and expressed his dream of becoming a model. Post after post, Danny
received more and more hate and criticism from the online community; they
commented on his facial features and discouraged his hopes and dreams of
becoming a model. Yet still seeking the gratification from the likes, follows,
and comments that werent negative and demeaning, Danny continued to feed
into his addiction by posting more photos. In December 2012, at the height of
his addiction, Danny dropped out of school and started to limit his food intake
causing him to rapidly losing 29 pounds. He spent nearly 10 hours a day taking
more than 200 selfies trying to capture the perfect snap or photo. Unable to
take a picture that would please critics on social media, Danny felt defeated
and that he had no other choice but to end his own life. He overdosed on
prescription pills however, luckily his mother found him and managed to get
him medical attention just in time to save his life (Aldridge).

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A study conducted by reported that teens between the ages of 15-19 spend
a minimum of 3 hours a day on social media (Social Media Addiction-Statistics and Trends).
With the steadily increasing number of active social media users, social media is at its prime. It is
actively being used by political figures, school boards and public health organizations to provide
the community with information. Now, at its peak, social media is becoming a trending topic in
relation to dependence/addiction, teens, and mental illness. Hearing stories like Dannys are
leading many to question whether social media addiction/dependence can lead to mental illness.
Scientific studies, reports and real life examples are forms of justification used by those who
agree that social media dependence can lead to mental illness. On the contrary, those who
oppose, support their argument with very little scientific evidence, or real life-examples. They
believe that the word addiction is being used too loosely for this up and coming epidemic.

Addiction can be described as the compulsion to complete repeat behaviours, until it

interferes with ones life, psychologically, or physically; ideally represented by drug addiction, or
alcoholism (Donley). Mark Fabbri, Director of the Psychology Degree for South University
said, Addiction is a word that should not be used lightly to describe a set of behaviours
(Donley). Fabbri stated that although social media may be overused, using the word addiction
to describe it is an overstatement because there is a significant difference between addiction/
dependence and overuse. The difference being addiction/ dependence of social media means that
an individual feels repeated impulses or the need to continually check, or post on their social
media accounts. The overuse of social media is when an individual uses it continuously because
they have spare time, or to fuel procrastination. The Social Media Practice Director for Lewis
PR- Global Communications, Adam Singer stated that anyone that abuses social media [gains

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addiction/dependence] are more likely to already have something going on psychologically
(Donley). He suspects social media is being used quite frequently for debate because of its high
relevance in society today. Singer also believes psychologists are using the newly developed idea
of social media addiction/dependence to obtain more clients (Donley). This is a concept he
believes to be both immoral and unethical (Donely). An article named Social Media Addiction:
Engage Brain Before Believing, published through Psychology Today agrees with Mark
Fabbris views, stating It concerns me that, as a society, we are very cavalier tossing around the
concept of addiction. Addiction is a serious psychological diagnosis based on specific lifeimpairing criteria. (Rutledge). Throughout the article, people are warned to be aware of the
seemingly constant misuse of the word addiction. Mainly because, people in todays society are
prone to believing anything they see on social media. If you apply these views to Danny
Bowmans case, Adam Singer, and Mark Fabbri would deduce that Danny already had some
hidden psychological issues before he began to over use social media, psychological issues that
lead to his increased vulnerability of his overuse of social media.

The proof/ evidence used to defend the idea of social media dependence/ addiction
causing mental illness can be viewed as a stronger defense than that of someone who oppose the
argument. Scientific studies, interviews, and real life cases, like Danny Bowman are why the
case for social media causing mental illness have more scientific evidence behind it. More
disorders and syndromes are being diagnosed related to social media addiction/ dependence.

As of lately, more disorders, and syndromes are being diagnosed in relation to social media
addiction/dependence. Phantom Pocket Vibration Syndrome, is a newly diagnosed syndrome in

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which your mind tricks you into believing that your phone is vibrating, with hopes of a new
notification, because of you're seeking gratification from social media (McGrath). Professor
Michelle Drouin, from Indiana University reported that approximately 89% of her students
experienced Phantom Pocket Vibration Syndrome, quite frequently in their everyday life. As of
late 2013, Internet Addiction Disorder began its voyage into deliberation, on whether or not it
should be considered a psychological disorder (Awaaz). This deliberation has led many to
wonder about the high presence and strength that the internet and social media have on society
today (Awaaz). Underdeveloped social skills, depression, and anxiety rates are all rising because
of social media, whether it be from the declining sense of gratification, or the possibility of cyber
bullying (Emirates). Some are even going to the extreme of not getting out of bed until they have
checked their social media first (Social Media Addiction-Statistics and Trends). Despite social
media being a positive way to stay connected in ones community, it seems to be having many
negative effects. These negative effects are contributing to the lack of depth in day to day
relationships. While in treatment, Danny was diagnosed with multiple mental disorders, and his
access to social media and technology was terminated (Aldridge). His withdrawal from social
media and technology was a long, and dreadful process (Aldridge). Varying techniques and
therapies are being developed to help combat these new disorders. The new procedures and
treatments that have been developed are designed with the same techniques as those of a
rehabilitation programs for drug addicts and alcoholics (Aguilar). Showcasing why Dannys
withdrawal from social media and technology was such a demanding process.

Before Danny was committed, he fed into his addiction by posting more photos on his
Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts. He continued doing this because, he enjoyed the

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sense of gratification that came when he received positive feedback on a post. Gratification from
likes, follows and comments excite and give teens an immense feeling of satisfaction due to the
positive feedback from their posts (Aguilar). A study conducted by Science Newsline
Psychology found that over half of their 600 participants stated that after looking at pictures on
Facebook, their body-consciousness rose (McGrath). Fighting to get that feeling of gratification
to stay is harming many teens, academically, physically and mentally (Udorie). Teens are
becoming so emotionally involved with social media that they are using time that should be
dedicated to school work to continue seeking gratification (Udorie). Their school work suffers as
a result, which in turn can increase an individuals anxiety or their stress levels, leading teens to
possibly lose sleep (Udorie). In some cases, teens even wake up in the middle of the night just to
check their social media so, they can ensure that they dont miss out on anything (Udorie).

After his mother found him, Danny was brought to the hospital for medical attention
(Aldridge). While in medical care, Danny was diagnosed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder,
OCD1, internet addiction, and anxiety related to body image (Aldridge). In March 2014, he
began speaking out to media outlets about his addiction, at this point he hadnt taken a selfie in
over 7 months (Aldridge). In an interview with Mirror regarding his addiction, Danny
stated, People don't realize when they post a picture of themselves on Facebook or Twitter it can
quickly spiral out of control. It becomes a mission to get approval and it can destroy anyone"
1 Body Dysmorphic Disorder- a psychological condition where an individual is obsessed with
imaginary imperfections on their body (Body Dsymorphic Disorder (BDD))OCD- Obsessive Compulsive
Disorder, a set of repeat behaviours that can be described as obsessive and/or compulsive (Obsessive
Compulsive Disorder)

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(Aldridge). Dannys case was one of the first cases of social media addiction/ dependence, to
actually be brought to the attention of news and other media outlets. Danny received support
from millions around the world while others were skeptical about his whole ordeal. Its
understandable that his critics were a bit skeptical about of the diagnosis, they would have
probably felt that Danny had just overused his social media privileges.

Danny Bowman was your average teen until his continued quest for gratification led to
his downfall. During his downward spiral, Danny became aggressive, intolerable, and just plain
unhappy (Aldridge). He lost friends, and when he started acting strangely he disappointed, and
scared his family members (Aldridge). Still on his quest, Danny received more and more hate,
leading him down his dark path of destruction. Reaching his ultimate down point, Danny tried to
kill himself with bottles of prescription medication (Aldridge). Social media addiction/
dependence is a serious condition that could lead more teens to possibly feel like they need to
end their lives. Educating teens about the dangers of overusing social media, and the possibility
of gaining a dependence or addiction, may be the most efficient way to prevent more lives from
being altered. Informing them of all the dangers that come with social media addiction/
dependence can allow teens to alter their usage of social media. This can be done through
creating programs to spread awareness of social media dependence/ addiction. Programs such as
these can include helpful facts regarding the amount of time one spends on social media, and
suggestions on how to allow things other than likes and follows to contribute to ones happiness.
What do you think? Do you think social media can lead to mental illness? Are there more things
schools can do to educate kids and teens on the dangers of social media addiction? Are there
signs you as a friend should be looking for? Or do you think its just some type of hoax?

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Works Cited
Aguilar, Maria. "Depending on Social Media." 13 May 2014. Social Media and Teenagers. 4
March 2016. <>.
Aldridge, Gemma. "Selfie Addict took TWO HUNDRED a Day -and Tried to Kill Himself When
He Couldn't Take Perfect Photo." 23 March 2014. Mirror. 4 March 2016.
Awaaz, Youth Ki. "What If The Internet Disappears? No. Seriously!" Infotrac Newsstand (2013).
4 March 2016. <
"Body Dysmorphic Disorder." Anxiety and Depression Association of America. N.p., n.d. Web.
10 June 2016. <>.
Donley, Megan. "Does Social Media Addiction Really Exist?" February 2011. South Source- A
Publication of South University. <>.
Emirates), Gulf News (United Arab. "Experts warn against over-dependence on social media."
Gulf News (2015). 4 March 2016. <

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McGrath, Katie. "Social media: A quasi-addiction for attention-seekers." UWIRE (2015). 4
March 2016. <
"Obsessive Compulsive Disorder." Canadian Mental Health Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 June
2016. <>.
"Social Media Addiction-Statistics and Trends." 26 December 2014. Go-Globe. 9 May 2016.
Stein, Emma. "Is Social Media Dependence a Mental Health Issue?" 24 March 2014. The Fix. 4
March 2016. <>.
Udorie, June Eric. "Social media is harming the mental health of teenagers. The state has to act."
16 September 2015. the guardian. 4 March 2016.