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Katie Lynch

Ms. Thomson
AP English Language & Composition
31 January 2018

How Does Social Media Negatively Affect Teens’ Mental Health?

Hashtag, republish, retweet, and like are all common words associated with social media.

Teens especially are well-versed in this slang, as about 90% use social media sites (Jakobsons).

Although there are many positives to using social networking sites – the main purpose is to

connect with others – there are heavier, more serious negative effects. It seems like no one is out

of reach, and anything that is said can be deleted. This puts a lot of pressure on the developing

minds of young adults and adolescents. According to Frances E. Jensen, author of The Teenage

Brain, “Teenage brains have more synaptic connections than adult ones, which makes them

highly impressionable, as they’re building synapses and modifying them as they learn” (Forster).

This impressionability of the teenage mind makes spending time on social media a sensitive

subject; adults cannot always monitor what is being seen, shared, and posted. Consequently,

youth are facing problems with mental health. Social media use in teens has led to an increase in

poor mental health because of the decrease of developing social skills, constant connections that

can lead to anxiety and addiction, and jealousy that can result in depression.

Use of social media from an early age has been disadvantageous to kids as it causes them

to miss out on developing important social skills. Adolescents need real life interactions in order

to develop social skills, but they are not experiencing these because of social media use and the

ease of contacting people via internet. Clinical psychologist Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair says

“kids are missing out on very critical social skills. In a way, texting and online communicating
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[…] puts everybody in a nonverbal disabled context, where body language, facial expression,

and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions are rendered invisible” (Ehmke). This means that

even though as a species, humans are highly skilled at reading social cues, those on social media

cannot sense these and react appropriately. Adolescents no longer experience real-life situations,

which are crucial to college and job interviews. Social media also negatively affects adolescents’

ability to civilly disagree with one another. Clinical and developmental psychologist Dr. Donna

Wick says young adults text things no one would actually say to another’s face. This is

especially true of girls, who don’t like to disagree with each other in “real life.” Therefore, it can

be concluded that screens offer a sense of protection to people who want to say rude things to

others. This leads to a greater increase in cyberbullying, which 95% of teens have witnessed on

social media (Whiteman). Social media decreases adolescents’ experiences in real life situations,

leads to a lack of social skills and ability to express opinions, and adds to an increase in

cyberbullying.

Social media allows for the constant connection among people, which can lead to anxiety

and Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD). Constant connections make one feel as though they are

never alone and constantly have to be active. In a world where everything is constant, immediate,

and ever-changing, thanks to technology, missing out on a single event can make one feel

insecure because they are not “up-to-date.” Therefore, it is only natural for people growing up in

an age of technology to feel pressure to always be online. This can lead to anxiety. Anxiety is

“an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear” (Merriam Webster). Dr. Wick

claims that by always being connected and never having alone time to destress, it is easy to

become emotionally depleted, which is how anxiety can become more prominent (Ehmke).

Social media is relentless with its updates, which leads people to think they need to always be the
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first to see the notifications. Additionally, social media use is addicting. A study made by

Swansea University says people experience the psychological symptoms of withdrawal when

they stop using the internet and social media (Walton). Many people find this hard to believe.

Perhaps it is hard to believe because the social stigma of addiction and mental illnesses clouds

the public’s judgement. However, recent studies have validated the actuality of Internet

Addiction Disorder; some physical signs can cause tremors, shivers, nausea, anxiety (Luskin).

During an interview on millennials in the workplace, author and speaker Simon Sinek says

“likes” and popularity of a post cause the chemical dopamine to be released in the brain. He goes

on to say that dopamine is the same chemical released to make people feel good during smoking,

drinking, and gambling. Therefore, it cannot be denied that social media is addicting, as

scientific studies based on chemicals released in the brain confirm it. Social media’s constant

updates and notifications lead to anxiety and addiction, and social media is a platform that can

cause people to become addicted because of chemical releases.

Social media use leads to an increase in jealousy, which can in turn result in depression.

Social media is a place where everyone can show their “perfect” lives off. It is almost impossible

to resist even subconsciously comparing oneself to peers on social media. Updates of friends’

relationships interrupt scrolling through pictures of friends’ vacations and friends. A common

joke involves the contrast between Instagram and reality. What people see on Instagram seems

perfect, with great lighting and gorgeous smiles. But in reality, there is a lot of effort required to

make a picture look perfect. However popular this joke may be, young adults’ minds are still

greatly impacted by this false sense of perfection on social media. Jealousy can even lead to

depression. A charity called Scope, which is based in the United Kingdom, surveyed 1,500

Facebook and Twitter users and discovered that 60% experienced the feeling of jealousy
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(Luskin). This is a large percentage of people who still continue to use social media, despite the

unpleasant and self-deprecating feeling of jealousy. Lara Jakobsons, PhD, a psychologist at

Northshore, says that increased time on social media causes higher risk of poor sleep, low self-

esteem, and increase in depression or anxiety. By feeling jealous and questioning one’s own

choices, low self-esteem and even depression can result. Furthermore, Ethan Kross, a social

psychiatrist at the University of Michigan, argues that rather than enhance well-being, social

media, specifically Facebook, actually “predicts the opposite result – it undermines it”

(Whiteman). This proves that time spent on social media does not provide a valuable and

uplifting experience for connecting with others. Social media instead can lead to jealousy and as

a result, depression.

Social media is becoming an increasingly vital part of everyday lives. Phones are more

often than not the first thing seen in the morning and the last thing seen at night. Social media is

especially prominent in the lives of teenagers. It seems like a good thing, how people can be

connected even when they cannot see each other. Especially among teens, social media allows

for them to believe they are a part of something (Agrawal). It offers teens an outlet or an escape

from everyday stressful lives of school and family. Nonetheless, it is imperative to the growth

and upbringing of young adults to be able to relate to others outside the realm of screens.

Studies have shown that social media has negative effects on mental health, specifically

for teens. Social media results in a decrease of development of social skills. These developmental

skills are crucial to maintaining confidence in oneself and being able to professionally and

effectively conduct oneself for future interviews. Constant connections can lead to anxiety and

addiction among the impressionable minds of teens. Plus, jealousy can result in depression.
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Overall, adults and young adults alike should limit their use of social media and focus on

reconnecting with the people and world around them.


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Works Cited

Agrawal, AJ. “It's Not All Bad: The Social Good Of Social Media.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine,

18 Mar. 2016, www.forbes.com/sites/ajagrawal/2016/03/18/its-not-all-bad-the-social-

good-of-social-media/#22ad4556756f.

“Anxiety.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anxiety.

Ehmke, Rachel. “How Using Social Media Affects Teenagers.” Child Mind Institute,

childmind.org/article/how-using-social-media-affects-teenagers/.

Forster, Katie. “Secrets of the Teenage Brain.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 25

Jan. 2015, www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jan/25/secrets-of-the-teenage-brain.

Jakobsons, Lara J. “Social Health: Teenagers’ Mental Health and Social Media.” How Social

Media Effects Teenagers' Mental Health. NorthShore University Health System,

www.northshore.org/healthy-you/how-social-media-effects-teenagers-mental-health/.

Luskin, Dr. Bernard. “Brain, Behavior, and Media.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 29

Mar. 2012, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-media-psychology-effect/201203/brain-

behavior-and-media.

Sinek, Simon. Interview by Tom Bilyeu. “Millennials in the Workplace.” Inside Quest.

Walton, Alice G. “6 Ways Social Media Affects Our Mental Health.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine,

3 Oct. 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/06/30/a-run-down-of-social-

medias-effects-on-our-mental-health/#2bf1a7cc2e5a.
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Whiteman, Honor. “Social media: how does it affect our mental health and well-Being?”

Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 10 June 2015,

www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275361.php.