Although social media users have reaped numerous benefits, they also have been faced with a major drawback — increased anxiety and depression. How can a tool that was meant to bring people together also be a stimulus for negative feelings?
One word: stress. Being constantly on alert for new messages and updates can cause the body to continuously release the stress hormone cortisol. Over time, excess cortisol can damage the gastrointestinal tract and cause an inflammatory response in the body and brain that leads to depression and anxiety.
Another source of social media stress is the unrealistic standards of perfection it can project. Individuals may become obsessed with having the perfect image, the perfect career, the perfect marriage, the perfect everything. The fixation can lead to a loss of self-confidence, which also contributes to social anxiety and depression.
“Facebook depression,” “Pinterest stress” and other recently termed versions of social media anxiety all have one common denominator: the person experiencing it often has lower self-esteem as a result of scrolling endlessly through these sites.
When social media profiles and pages portray the highlight reels of a person’s life — the very best photos with stories about new jobs, engagements and fun events — viewers may begin to feel inadequate, unfavorably comparing their ordinary day-to-day activities.
Teens, especially, do not understand this skewed perception. They often don’t realize they are seeing the best of the best of a person’s life rather than less exciting everyday events.
On websites such as Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr, users tend to project a “perfect” life. Sites like Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook let users “check in” when they go places and tag other users, making their lives seem busy and social. Others viewing their posts may feel pressured to live up to this “perfect” social standard. And when they can’t keep up, they start to feel self-doubt, which can lead to depression.
The best thing you can do for your teen is to talk about these misconceptions. Be sure your teen understands that scrolling for hours through social media websites and apps only increases the unrealistic expectations and stress.