While all the experts and concerned adults are blaming the Internet and social media for every problem occurring in society, there is no real evidence that the Internet causes the rise of the mental health issues. There is a slight correlation between the use of social media and depression, but it is insignificant at a larger scale.
After Facebook was first introduced to the public in 2004 and expanded to global coverage, the daily routine of most people changed for good. As the popularity of smartphones had boomed for the last couple years, messengers like WhatsApp and Snapchat have become the most popular means of communication for the younger generation. It seems like most of their time during the day young people spend in their devices being completely oblivious to everything happening around them. This fact accompanied be many experts’ opinions is the root cause of the belief that the Internet is the source of all dangers and has a negative effect on teens.
Analysis of several studies that are focusing on social media use and its correlation with depression and anxiety brings us to the results of more than 10 thousand participants aged up to 18 years old. And while we have seen a small but significant relationship between feelings of depression and online activities there were certainly some incoherencies during the studies.
The biggest problem of modern researches concerning the Internet use and depression – apart from the reliance on the participants’ own reports about their Internet use – is that they fail to define whether mood changes were the cause or the effect. Depression was not formally diagnosed in any of the researches. Some studies, however, did state that youngsters who were psychologically vulnerable were more likely to look for support on social media, while previous surveys found that impulsive young people with addictive behaviors are more likely to be bullied online.
Parents of teens who spend an excessive amount of time online should be aware of their emotional and mental health and provide enough support. Most teens seek for support and help online, but the superficial exchange of information and likes on social media would not bring as much warmth and understanding as family love and support.
New Technology – New Worries
The panic about mental health issues among youngsters is explainable as well as the alleged harm from the Internet are explainable. In the 19th century, many people were diagnosed with ‘railway sickness’ which obviously was a result of unusual train motions. But now people do not suffer from such a neurosis – because the railway has nothing to do with mental health.
Adolescence has always been a complicated life period, but the depression definitely is not a direct result of social media engagement. On the other hand, greater mental health awareness and better diagnosis might be the reason for rising incidence of depression and anxiety. Studies that follow people during the longer periods of time would make it clearer – as our social media use habits change from childhood to adolescence, so does the influence of the social media on people. Repeated measurements of mental health and stress are essential, but implementing both qualitative and quantitative methods would bring clearer results. Letting young research participants speak frankly about their feelings would better reveal potential links between social media and depression for each participant individually.
While it seems like the excessive use of the Internet and social media is here to ruin kids’ and teens’ lives, from a larger perspective we see a much better prognosis. Yes, social media would probably dominate humans for quite a while, but the overall popularity of Facebook among teens is declining. More and more people learn to use technology and media wisely and change their habits to healthier ones.