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Essay: Impact of social media on teenage mental health

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How long do you stay on your phone surfing through social media? Teens who spend more than 2 hours per day on any social networking platform are significantly more likely to have mental health problems resulting in suicidal ideation (Gramigna, 2020). Although some may argue that suicidal behaviors vary in gender, where one resides, and their age group, this does not change the fact that no human being is immune to it. Social media contributes to the rise of teenage suicide as it enables acts of cyberbullying, damages people’s self-esteem, and promotes narcissism.

According to CDC (2019), bullied youth suffer the most negative consequences and mental suffering. This can result in experiencing depression, anxiety, insomnia, as well as self-harm, and death. Patchin (2019) conducted a survey stating that middle school (33%) has the most reported incidents of cyberbullying, followed by high school (30%), combined schools (20%), and primary school (5%). One example is Sadie Riggs, a bubbly and passionate 15-year-old girl who had faced multiple obstacles in her life; however, the biggest challenge occurred during her freshman year. Kids in the hallways made fun of her braces and red hair in the school’s hallways. The bullying persisted on various messaging platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Kik, where she was told to kill herself. Sarah Smith, her aunt, reported this incident to the police, the school, and even Instagram, yet none of them took action. Her aunt could not take it anymore so she decided to confiscate and destroy her niece’s phone. Not long after that, Sadie hanged herself. The suicide rate among teenage girls aged 15 to 19 reached a 40-year high in 2015, according to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 2007 and 2015, girls’ rates doubled, while boys’ rates increased by more than 30%. Children’s hospital admission for suicide-related reasons substantially increased, and half of the patients were in their late teens. 12 to 14-year-olds consumed 36.9%, 15 to 17-year-olds consumed 50.4%, and kids aged 5 to 11 consumed the remaining 12.7% (Chuck, 2017).

Without a doubt, social media has become an integral part of our lives, particularly for teenagers. Even though it is said to be beneficial for making friends, being open about one’s sexuality, and such, nevertheless, it can have a detrimental effect on one’s self-esteem and self-image. One of the most important determinants of psychological well-being is self-esteem. Among adolescents, it is commonly recognized as a complex and hierarchical notion with multiple components, including academic, social, athletic, and physical self-esteem (Valkenburg et al., 2017). Many young girls come across the most perfect-looking photos from their friends and celebrities, said a clinical psychologist from the Child Mind Institute. As the majority of these “standards of beauty” are modified or photoshopped to impress others, they are extremely unrealistic. Taking this into account, it is clear that this will not help them build their confidence. Whenever people view those posts, they will believe that they are doing poorly or that they appear unattractive in comparison to others. Additionally, many think their happiness depends on who is most popular or who has the most likes on their most recent uploads. This was proven untrue by a 2017 study by the British Psychological Society. Receiving likes did not make them feel better nor did it lift their spirits when they were down. The way teenagers, especially young women, perceive their physical appearance has a tremendous impact on their self-image. Additionally, 94% of them use social media, which is approximately more than a billion (Auld, 2019). Unworldly ideals can cause body dysmorphia, a mental health disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance. This can get worse over time if left untreated, causing anxiety, severe depression, and suicidal thoughts or behavior (Mayo Clinic, 2019).

Toxic behaviors such as narcissism thrive in social media. Environments like these are where people can develop and promote self-obsession. Many of you have probably encountered someone who is so engrossed in looking flawless in front of the camera. Social media applications, Facebook to be more specific, was said to have triggered a “context collapse,” in which users are trapped into one, single persona and form a habit of “self-editing” what they share on social media to match up that certain character (Auld, 2019). This is a symptom of narcissistic personality disorder. It is a type of personality disorder and is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. This disorder causes many problems with relationships, work or school, experiencing depression and anxiety, physical health problems, drug or alcohol misuse, and suicidal thoughts or behavior. Narcissistic personality disorder often begins in one’s teenage years or early adulthood and it affects more males than females (Mayo Clinic, 2017). Since social media primarily serves as self-promotional platforms, psychologist Eric B. Weiser said, they may reinforce and foster narcissistic traits. People who have narcissistic personalities require admiration from others. Their conceitedness grows on easy-to-get social media endorsements (e.g., likes, shares, or new followers) (Atanasova, 2016).

Teenagers suffering from various mental health issues are a result of excessive use and exposure to social media. The majority of these factors contribute to the development of suicidal behavior. It is undeniably a part of one’s life, yet it is primarily used for self-centered needs and purposes. Accordingly, they are susceptible to adapting narcissistic qualities. Teens are continuously pointing out their flaws, because of cyberbullying or the soaring standards of success and beauty, eventually undermining their self-esteem.

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