Content Disclaimer: Discussion on anxiety, depression and eating disorders.
Editor’s Note: The News wants students to know about Northeastern University and provide mental health resources for students elsewhere.
- WeCare: [email protected], 617-373-7591, 226 Curry
- University health and guidance services (UHCS): [email protected], 617-373-2772, Forsyth Building, 1st floor
- 24/7 mental health support: for students by phone ([email protected]) – 877-233-9477 (United States), 781-457-7777 (international)
- Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- Eating Disorders Helpline: (800) 931-2237
- 24/7 Anxiety Text Assistance: Text HOME to 741741
Since the inception and rise of social media, the mental health of young people around the world has been at a lowest historical. This is not just a coincidence. Studies show that there is a clear link between the use of social media and increasing rates of anxiety and depression in adolescents, which comes as no surprise to many. As a society, we are collectively aware of how addictive social media is, yet we knowingly spend our free time scrolling into oblivion.
While wasting time is definitely a negative thing, it has more of an impact than just being a zombie that’s on the phone all day. Negative body image is just one of the many possible effects of social media engagement, especially on apps like Instagram or TikTok. Not only is it detrimental for young girls to compare themselves to others they see on these apps, but most of what they compare to isn’t even real. Photo editing and retouching apps like Facetune promote a false reality and standards of beauty that teens work hard to try to maintain. In addition, these apps are obviously populated with a disproportionate amount of fitness influencers compared to the general population, which distorts beauty standards and causes low self-esteem.
There is a saying in which I fully believe: “Comparison is the thief of joy. “I believe social media perpetuates this endlessly. Body image issues can contribute to the onset of many eating disorders, with anorexia nervosa being the deadliest mental illness known to date.
Although some may argue that social media brings people together, and to some extent it is, we need to be very aware of its negative effects. The University of Pennsylvania conducted a study which showed high uses of social media apps increase feelings of loneliness.
As previously reported, rates of depression and anxiety among young people in the United States have skyrocketed over the years. last years, and this can be partially attributed to social media, where people can present their lives in the most positive light. However, what many tend to forget is precisely this: people post what they want the world to see on their feed. A majority of photos posted on Instagram are posed and took over an hour to edit and think of an “appropriate” caption. Everything online is not what it seems.
From first-hand experience, I know how incredibly harmful the impacts of social media can be. I spent more time than I would like to admit watching other people’s flagship movies. What I didn’t understand was that most of what I saw was not my reality. Not understanding this concept made me feel that my life was inadequate and missing. I felt like my Instagram feed defined who I was, even though that just wasn’t the truth. Your Instagram feed or profile does not define you as a person. You don’t have to wear a mask to “fit in” on a social media app. Understanding this has been of tremendous benefit to my mental health. I no longer feel the need to update my Instagram or stress about the “persona” I am displaying.
It is difficult to determine a clear solution to end this epidemic and this addiction to social media. Technology companies will continue to do their job to find ways to make these apps even more addicting and hard to stop using. Social media, ultimately, is a Business, and its employees will find ways to profit from its users, no matter what. Despite this, I believe there are ways to reduce the negative side effects of using social media. What I hope students in the North East – as well as young people around the world – take away from this is that there is so much more to life than living through a screen. As students, we can all try to spend less time on our devices and more time outdoors with loved ones. These are examples of proven ways we can actively improve our sanity and prioritize free time on our phones. We can also promote mental health resources and do our part to have conversations or dialogue about these issues. It also acts for decrease stigma that continues to surround mental health. Northeastern also has a responsibility to advocate for the mental health of its students. To do this, University health and counseling services need further improvement. As a university, we have a responsibility to be kind to each other and realize that we don’t know what someone else might be going through.
One final reminder for anyone reading: you are worth enough and worth more than any number of likes or followers on Instagram. You don’t have to change yourself to better adapt to the norms perpetuated by social media. You deserve to feel happy with who you are.
Alyssa Endres graduated in the third year of Political Science and Communication. She can be reached at [email protected]