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Isabella Suber

Dean Leonard

English 1201.509

31 July 2019

The Affect of Social Media on Mental Health

In a small Boston dorm, Mark Zuckerberg coded the framework for a site that would start

in 2004 and by 2019 be a global social networking site; Facebook. With the start of that one site,

grew multiple others until there are dozens of social media sites and apps being used by today’s

population. These widespread networks can reach an overwhelming amount of people in the

modern world, though seemingly positive, there is extensive negative ripple affect concerning

mental health. As adolescents are developing alongside technology, social media heavily

influences the mental health of the upcoming generation. The negative mental health issues that

social media causes needs to be addressed due to the fact that the younger generation is

developing an interdependency to social media, an increased anxiety, depression, and suicide

rate due to their interaction with social media.

Interdependency is a term used describe a relationship between two things. The

dictionary defines interdependence as a “mutual dependence between things.” In the modern era,

the younger generations has increased their interdependent relationship with technology, and

social media. By communicating mainly through social media sites like Facebook, Instagram,

and Snapchat, teenagers are crippling their communication and social skills with a real audience.

Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a psychologist, and author states that “There’s no question kids are

missing out on very critical social skills. In a way, texting and online communicating—it’s not

like it creates a nonverbal learning disability, but it puts everybody in a nonverbal disabled
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context, where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions

are rendered invisible” (Smartphones and Social Media). As teenagers rely and depend more on

communication solely through technology device and social media outlets, their social skills will

continue to diminishes. This is a real concern as mental well-being and development is being


Adolescents become interdependent on social media because of its addictive nature. The

article “Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs With Smartphones?” by Matt Richtel celebrates the

lowered drug rates among teenagers, but shows concern for what might be causing this decrease:

smartphones. In the multiple studies conducted all conclude that drug rates have decreased

significantly in high schoolers within the last 10 years. Theses statics show a decline in drug

usage including smoking decreasing by 6.6 percent, and alcohol usage reduced by 6.9 percent.

Cocaine, heroine, and marijuana usage has also declined among high schoolers, unfortunately

not as considerable as smoking or drinking. The reason for these decreases are unknown but are

heavily viewed as the result of the addicting nature of smartphones, social media, and video

games. Social media is causing teenager’s brain to produce dopamine when online. In a study

done by Pew Research Center discovered that on average teens spend six and a half hours on

their devices each day. Just like drug and alcohol addicts have a mental health issue, addicts to

social media is an issue also.

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Fg 1. The percentage of people who used various types of social media in 2017 compared to 2018.

Social media has rooted itself in the brain of users. Teenagers are interdependent on

social media because of the high they feel when they receive positive feedback from their

follows. A study completed by researchers at the UCLA brain mapping center used the fMRI

machine to record the reaction of teenagers when they viewed their post being liked by a large

number of people. The result of the study showed “the nucleus accumbens, part of the brain's

reward circuitry, was especially active when they saw a large number of likes on their own

photos. According to researchers, this area of the brain is the same region that responds when we

see pictures of people we love or when we win money. What's more, researchers say that this

reward region of the brain is particularly sensitive during the teen years, which could explain

why teens are so drawn to social media” (Sherri Gordon). This study helps lay down foundation

to confirm that adolescents have an interdependent relationship with social media, as it uses

scans to show how we feel rewarded by social media. This can be greatly positive, if an user is

well liked, and gets a lot of good comments; however, it can have tragic impacts for people who

have little following or experience cyber bulling. Social media is impact mental health because

of the influence and grip it processes on the human brain.

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Social media can impact an individual’s mental health, causing serious issues like

depression, anxiety, and increased suicide rates. Individuals give social media power over them,

giving power to the likes, comments, and feedback they receive from the life they portray on a

site. For the younger generation social media has become a way for one to brand their ideal self

to their peers and the rest of the world. From an bystander’s perspective social media is perfect,

allowing oneself to portray their flawless version of themselves; however, it is not that simple.

The obsessive usage of social media does not always contribute to the perfect image users are

attempting to display, but feeds into an interdependent nature to likes, comments, and other

people’s opinions for happiness. This contrived view of happiness leads into anxiety about what

they will post, depression revolving around the comments and likes, and risky behaviors to

increase the number of followers.

Mental illness diagnosis has increased the last couple years in categories of depression,

anxiety, and eating disorders. The diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, DSM, is

used by psychologists to diagnose and treat mental illness. Mental illnesses has various

conditions and severities, normally split into two broad categories: any mental illness, AMI, and

serious mental illness, SMI. Any mental illness is “a mental, behavioral, or emotional

disorder…Serious mental illness (SMI) is defined as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder

resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or

more major life activities” (Mental Illness).

Gender is a critical aspect of AMI or SMI, some mental illnesses are closer associated to

one gender over another. In females depression is the most common mental health problem,

followed by anxiety. Depression and anxiety is more common in women because of a women’s

willingness to come forward and receive help; but also during the reproductive ages of females
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(from adolescence to menopause) the “rate is 2 to 3 times higher. When we look at anxiety

disorders…women tend to be affected more” (Adrianna Mendrek). This has increased with

social media because of the connection of positive and negative feedback social media gives

through users.

Depression, or MDD, standing for Major Depression Disorder is highly common,

affecting one in five Americans at one point of their life. In recent years the age at which most

people are diagnosed with MDD has decreased inversely with the rate of social media usage,

“the average onset is mid-20s with the age of onset decreasing with people born more recently”

(Soltysiak, 329). Not only is social media usage in general lowering the rate for depression, but

the number of social media sites a person is apart of increases the risk for depression also.

Fg 2. The percentage of adolescents experiencing MDD in 2017.

Computers in Human Behavior published a study that “found that the use of multiple

social media sites is more strongly associated with depression than the amount of time spent

online. According to the study, people who used more than seven social media platforms had

more than three times the risk of depression than people who used two or fewer sites” (Sherri
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Gordon). Seven seems like a large number, but when listing all the social media sites available,

seven is a small number. Sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest are

incredibly popular with the younger generations, smaller messaging apps like GroupMe,

WhatsApp, and Messenger, are growing in popularity as they allow you to communicate with

people over seas; multiple dating apps like Plenty of Fish, Tinder, Match and eharmony account

for a small number of social media apps available. These apps do not include games that involve

player to player chatting like Covet Fashion, or Fortnite, were players interact with each other

and comment on others techniques, styles, and abilities. A study conducted by the Royal Society

for Public Heath interviewed 14-24 years old in the United Kingdom to determine how social

media affected their health and well being. The study concluded “that Snapchat, Facebook,

Twitter and Instagram all led to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image and

loneliness” (Harold Koplewicz). The most popular social media sites of the younger generation

is causing numerous mental health problems.

The reason social media contributes to an increasing number of mental health issues is

connected solely on the user of social media. Everyone who uses social media will not be

affected by worsening mental health. As Emma stayed in the documentary Social_Animals, after

developing depression and attempting to end her life, while attending rehab she discovers a

fundamental truth for why her depression developed and worsened. Emma stated towards the end

of the documentary that “I gave the people behind the social media too much power. ‘Cause, I

mean, that’s what Instagram’s all about, you know, how many likes you get. And that literally

controls the power of your picture” (Social_Animals). Mental illness is not normal disease that

one cannot control, that the body contracts and needs to fight off; it is a mental disease, one that

can grow and die with what in individual chooses to give power too. The addictive nature of
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social media leads adolescents to give power to social media, in turn developing anxiety, and

depression when they do not receive enough likes, or experience cyber bullying.

Anxiety is a positive force that motivates individuals to look towards the future, and to

create plans; however, when anxiety becomes overwhelming and constant it is no longer helpful.

Anxiety emerges from “‘triple vulnerabilities,’ a combination of biological, psychological, and

specific factors that increase our risk for developing a disorder” (Soltysiak, 308). Teens can

experience anxiety multiple ways, from completing a homework assignment, writing a paper on

time, or performing well for a quiz or presentation; however, anxiety can increase with social

media usage.

Adolescents are interdependent to social media, and feel emotionally connected, they not

only “feel pressure to respond quickly online, but they also feel pressure to have perfect photos

and well-written posts, all of which can cause a great deal of anxiety. In fact, some studies have

found that the larger a teen's social circle online the more anxiety they feel about keeping up with

everything online” (Sherri Gordon). Keeping up with friends, posting great, edited, pictures takes

an unimaginable about of time. An article done by Washington Post concludes that individuals

between the ages of 8-12 spend almost six hours a day, and individuals 13-18 spend around eight

hours on social media. Posting and responding and keeping up an image increases anxiety, and

with how much time is being spent on social media, adolescents never take a break and allow

their anxiety to lower, rather increased it every time they check their phone. Anxiety also is

developed when people dwell on what other’s will think about their post. Unfortunately, this may

lead to cyber bullying, slut-shaming, and name calling; often resulting in depression, and in

severe cases; suicide.

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Suicide is devastating. An act where an individual decides to take their own life. A point

in life where someone is so low, lost and forgotten, where they feel their only solution is to kill

themselves. In 2017 “suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between

the ages of 10 and 34” (Suicide). This rate has increase steadily since 2007 until now, a major

increase from 2016 to 2017, some researchers contribute the increase to the release of the show

“13 Reasons Why” which follows true story of Hannah, a high school student that commits

suicide, and leaves behind 13 reasons why she killed herself. Social media usage is also driving

the suicide rate up.

Fg 3. The increased rates of suicide from 2001-2017.

Social media is not the true cause to increased suicide, but the users behind social media,

and a screen name. Cyber bullying has become increasingly popular and harsh, often

untraceable. People are bolder under a screen name and fake identity, able to say hateful words

and phrases to others they could never say face to face. Bullied and cyber bullied students

“experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, physical health problems, and social adjustment

problems and these problems can persist into adulthood” ( LaRoe). The old saying “sticks and
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stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you” is no longer true and accurate.

Words hurt more than sticks and stones. Words portrayed, and comments on pictures and post

hurt a great deal more. They hurt so much that people are killing themselves to escape. A child

experiencing cyber bulling was twice as likely to attempt suicide, than non victims.

Suicide is not a surprise, and the person who wants too or did commit suicide often

leaves behind, examples would be linguistic features, posting frequency on social media, and

even concerning post, tweets, or comments. “In recent years, social media has shown significant

value for many public health related issues, as well as the influence on mental health and suicide-

related behaviors” (Du et al.) Social media is not only a tool for cyber bulliers to harm others,

and even has a term when cyber bulling leads to suicide called cyerbullicide, but can provide

methods for how to commit suicide. Social media also exposes young people to what suicide is.

A study done by Dunlop et al. Reported that “of 719 individuals aged 14 to 24 years, 79%

reported being exposed to suicide-related content through family, friends, and traditional news

media such as newspapers, and 59% found such content through Internet sources” (David D.

Luxton). Chat rooms on social media site can also increase suicide rates by “foster peer pressure

to die by suicide, encourage users to idolize those who have completed suicide, or facilitate

suicide pacts” (David D Luxton). Overall, social media nurtures and increase chances of suicide.

It needs to be monitored and stopped. Cyber bulling needs to receive real punishments, and

social media needs to block suicide related content.

Social media is not a horrible creating, and can benefit many people. It needs to be

censored more and monitored for the negative mental health factors it leads too. Social media is

a huge promoter for businesses, and branding. Social media allows for consumers to buy

products right of the ads they see. It lets people make a “brand” for themselves and increase their
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following. Social media can increase mental health issues in adolescents; however, it can also

provide support for people with mental illnesses. Social media has a large online community and

chat rooms for people with various health issues that can lean on one another for support and

encouragement. These benefits does not outweigh the serious problem with mental health that

social media has cause in the minds of the younger generation.

It has been fifteen years since the first major social media site was created in small dorm

room. Today almost 79% of Americans have at least one social media account. The pressures of

social media most influence the younger generation, from 10 to 29 year olds because of the

increased amount of time they spend plugged in. Social media has been proven to cause negative

impacts on mental health, causing an interdependency on social media, and increased depression,

anxiety, and suicide rate. These issues need to be addressed and brought to the attention of the

people who created and monitor and users of social media. These negative mental health issues

are tearing apart and destroying family’s, and they need to be fixed.
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Work Cited

Gordon, Sherri. “How Social Media Negatively Affects the Teen Brain.” Verywell Family,

Verywell Family, 19 June 2019, www.verywellfamily.com/ways-social-media-affects-


Green, Jonathan, director. Social_Animals. Conscious Minds Production , 2018.

Klass, Perri. “When Social Media Is Really Problematic for Adolescents.” The New York Times,

The New York Times, 3 June 2019,


Koplewicz, Harold. “Smartphones and Social Media.” Child Mind Institute, 2017,

Luxton, David D, et al. “Social Media and Suicide: a Public Health Perspective.” American

Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, May 2012,


“Major Depression.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human

Services, Feb. 2019, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml.

Mendrek, Adrianna, director. Mental Illness and Gender . YouTube, 28 Feb. 2011, youtu.be/hI-


“Mental Illness.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human

Services, Feb. 2019, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml.

Newberry, Christina. “130+ Social Media Statistics That Matter to Marketers in 2019.”

Hootsuite Social Media Management, 13 Mar. 2019, blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-


Soltysiak , Anne. OER PSY 1100 Readings . Diener Education Fund, 2016.
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“Suicide.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

Apr. 2019, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml.

Richtel, Matt. "Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs with Smartphones." New York Times, 13 March

2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/13/health/teenagers-drugs-smartphones.html.

Accessed 31 May 2019.

Tsukayama, Hayley. “Teens Spend Nearly Nine Hours Every Day Consuming Media.” The

Washington Post, WP Company, 3 Nov. 2015, www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-