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Photo illustration by Noah Merrell

Students speak about how social media affects mental health

by Noah Merrell | Design Director

Depression, anxiety and countless other mental disorders have been linked to social media usage, according to a study done by The Royal Society for Public Health.

“The idea that everyone puts out only the best parts of their lives, they show the party they are at, or the flowers their husband gave them. It makes their lives seem more perfect than they actually are,” Behavioral Sciences professor Cheree Anthony-Encapera says.

Most students have said the goal of these posts is to gain recognition and attention from their friends and followers.

“Research shows that even our brain chemistry is changing,” Anthony-Encapera says. “Because of interactions on social media … our reward centers in our brain … stimulate, like if you were looking at the person you love; we get addicted to those likes.”
Some students have said they have become reliant on the stimulus they get from having their posts liked, and this has caused them to even question their relationships outside of their device.

“When I don’t get likes from my friends I feel more like ‘why aren’t you liking my stuff?’” freshman Kassidy Rice says. “Like ‘aren’t you my friend?’”

With the creation of apps like Facetune – which allow users to remove blemishes, reconstruct facial features and perform other photo manipulations – people have not only altered their lives through social media but also their biology.

“Everybody uses filters because it makes them look better and helps hide their imperfections,” freshman Liz Cole says.

With filters used to change appearances, some students believe it is causing issues with their body image.

According to Anthony-Encapera, social media has “definitely” caused issues with self-esteem and has inflated false positive self-esteem. Research has shown it has lowered self-esteem in all age groups.

According to a study done by Nielsen Company, adults in the United States devoted about 10 hours and 39 minutes each day to social media. Some believe it has gained more control over emotions and how people view themselves.

“We have always had where the media has influenced how people feel about how they look but now with social media it is tenfold,” Anthony-Encapera says.

A study done by the Pew Research Center in 2013 found that teenagers were experiencing a decline in intimate friendships as they chose Facebook over real life relationships.

A term called “Facebook Depression” has sprung up. It is defined as depression that develops when preteens, teens and even young adults spend a great deal of time on social media websites, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.

“I think that (excessive social media use) is where we are seeing more depression and lower self-esteem because individuals are comparing their lives to something that is not real,” Anthony-Encapera says.

While not all students feel that they endure this depression, some say social media has affected not just their self-esteem, but also how they feel about their lives.

“I feel pretty crappy when I look at other people’s Instagrams and they look better than mine,” Rice says. “But I sometimes tell myself they just have a better phone than me or better angle for their photos.”

Some students believe that people take advantage of the way social media can make their lives look perfect and exploit it.

“If a guy posts a picture shirtless saying he went to the gym he is looking to see if his time at the gym is working,” freshman Keontray Franklin says.


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