Does Social Media Affect Mental Health?

Elle Williams | May 14th 2018

48% of people said social media makes them feel self-conscious and 41% said it makes them feel lonely.

Devil’, ‘hell’, evil’, ‘invisible’, ‘manipulative’, ‘controlling’, ‘embarrassing’ , ‘free’, ‘happiness’, ‘harmony’, ‘important’ and ‘positive’ were words used to describe Mental Health.

Mental Health Awareness Week

 

PushON surveyed 1,000 people in the UK to find out if Social Media has a negative impact on Mental Health, how we identify ourselves and the world around us. The survey revealed some interesting results.

57%* of those who participated in the survey have been diagnosed with anxiety and 55%* with depression. The minority statistic represented those who haven’t been diagnosed with Mental Health (28%*). 41%* of those from the South West have been diagnosed with self-harm, making it one of the highest regions in the UK. The research also discovered that anxiety was exceptionally high for 16-19 year olds, with 56%* having being diagnosed with it.

The survey results highlighted the reasons as to why we use it on a daily basis. The most popular reasons included keeping in touch with friends and family (86%*), to create memories (47%*) and 42%* said they use it to escape. A proportion of those asked admitted that they go on social media to be nosey! In fact, out of all the regions, it was one of the most popular choices for the North West with 32%*.

40%* of those asked said that one of the reasons for having social media is because everyone has it. Has it become a necessity to have a Facebook account? Are we being pressured to uploading filtered Snapchat selfies?

You could argue that we spend too much time browsing and interacting on social media than spending quality and precious time with loved ones.

  • 62% of those asked said they spend over 3 hours per day on social media and only 13% will spend up 1 hour a day.
  • It isn’t surprising that the biggest culprits for spending large amounts of time on social media came from the generation who were born into the social media world, with 42% of 16-19 year olds spending over 4 hours a day on it.

When comparing hours spent on social media on a day to day basis, it was females who overtook males for time consumed on this online channel with 30% spending over 4 hours a day. Males on average would spend up to 3 hours per day.

But which social media channels are they spending all this time on?

Unsurprisingly, Facebook came out on top with a significant 82%*. Interestingly, YouTube came second with 77%*, followed by Snapchat with 70%* and Instagram with 66%*. The least popular was Reddit with only 5%*. Snapchat was the most popular amongst the Gen Z’s and Millennials with 77%* of them selecting this social media platform compared to the other age groups.

How does social media make you feel?

According to the social media users, 48%* said it made them feel self-conscious. Could this be a result to the selfie era that we live in? 41%* said social media makes them feel lonely and 35%* feel anxious. However, not everyone shares negative feelings as 43%* said it makes them happy; 43%* feel inspired and 23%* feel loved. Others included:

  • 28%* feel unhealthy
  • 28%* feel depressed
  • 28%* feel motivated
  • 25%* have feelings of sadness
  • 14%* feel popular

From the age groups, feeling of self-consciousness was more popular amongst the 16-19 year olds (65%*) and the 20-25 year olds (64%*).  It was the same age groups where Snapchat was most popular – could Snapchat impact those feelings? Out of the 31-40 year olds, feelings of loneliness was a common choice with 46%*.

Your own emotional state can impact on your feelings towards others, as 47%* of social media users express feelings of jealousy. The results also revealed that:

  • 27%* have feelings of resentfulness
  • 21%* feel angry towards others on social media.

Nevertheless, 45%* show feelings of proudness towards their social media friends and 26%* get excited with what their followers share.

Unfortunately, we can’t control how other social media users will react to posts we share, luckily, we Brits avoid leaving negative comments on social media with 79% of those asked saying they have never left one. Although the UK public will sidestep leaving negative comments on other users profiles, it hasn’t stopped them receiving one with 52% of Brits being subject to one. Fortunately, only a small percentage of social media users have been regularly singled out.

The saying ‘honesty is the best policy’ has rubbed off on our Facebook profiles, as the majority of those asked (51%), said that their Facebook profile is a true representative of themselves. 22% admitted that ‘jazzed’ it up a bit; 14% held their hands up to say that their Facebook profile is a complete lie. The 20-25 year olds were more inclined to spruce up their Facebook profile with 46%. Northern Ireland was the stand out region to admit to jazzing up their Facebook profile to impress with 41%.

Deactivating your social media accounts often results from an impulse decision.

  • 46% of respondents said they have never fully committed to switching off their accounts.
  • 15% said they deactivated their social media accounts due to negativity or boredom.
  • 14% removed themselves because they felt that they spent too much time on it.
  • 7% wanted to see if they can survive without it – the question is, did they?
  • And just 3% detached themselves from the social media world following a breakup.

Although the results show that we are probably spending too much time on social media on a daily basis, we’re not completely bathing ourselves in it, as 81% of those asked said they would rather have ‘real life’ interactions than social media ones, leaving 19% preferring to interact virtually.

How would you feel if social media was taken away?

  • 22% said they would feel bored
  • 19% have no defined opinion on how it would make them feel
  • 18% said they would feel isolated
  • 18% would feel relived if social media was to depart ways.
  • A further 15% would feel lost without it.
  • 7% would be confused
  • And only 1% would feel heartbroken.

Predictably, the majority of the 16-19 year olds admitted that they would feel bored (27%). Interestingly, the bulk of 20-25 year olds would feel isolated. 28% of 31-40 year olds and 33% of the over 40s have neutral feelings towards it. As for the 26-30 year olds, 43% would be relieved.

When comparing men and women, 22% of females said they would feel bored, followed by 16% who would be thankful if it went, whereas 29% of males wouldn’t agonise over it.

Do you think the world would be a better or worse place without social media?

The data indicated that the majority of the 16-19 year olds (40%), the 26-39 year olds (48%) and the 40+ (41%), are undecided about what society would be like without the social media phenomena. Whereas, the 20-25 year olds (42%) and the 31-40 year olds (43%) agreed that the world would be a better place without it.

Overall, 39% believe the world would be a better off without social media, 20% think the opposite and 41% said they wouldn’t be bothered either way.

To conclude, we can assume that although social media does impact our mental well-being, we are still able to wake up in the morning without the urge to check Facebook and that if it suddenly disappeared, we will still be able to get on with our day to day lives, despite feeling slightly lost.

Behind the holiday check-ins, photo uploads and tagging on to celebrity tweets, there is another side to social media that can negatively impact mental health and it is something that we should collectively address.

*participants were able to answer with more than once answer for some questions in the survey

If you suffer from mental health or know someone who does, there are charities who offer professional support, such as Mind. If you don’t feel comfortable going directly to a charity for advice and support, speak to, a friend, a loved one or your employer.

It is important that you talk someone – it will be confidential, and don’t be put off talking directly to your employer; you will be surprised how they can support you, which our roundtable discussion found.