Social media is a relatively new phenomenon in the technology arena. Years ago, it just didn’t exist. We sent letters, made telephone calls and met in person. That was pretty much it.

Facebook was founded in 2004, with it being rolled out and available to everyone over the age of 13 in 2006. Twitter appeared in the same year with Instagram hitting our smartphones in 2010.

As the years have progressed, so has technology and although social media is pretty downright impressive with many advantages, it also has its drawbacks.

Social media can be very ‘anonymous’ … people can ‘hide’ behind a name. Behind a façade. Half the time we cannot be sure, even as adults, if something or someone is as real as it all appears online.

With anonymity and covertness comes a whole wealth of problems. It’s not surprising that many now class social media as being bad for your mental health. But how is this possible?

Firstly, social media is addictive. Have you checked Facebook, Twitter or Instagram today? If so, how many times? It’s becoming increasingly commonplace to be the first port of call in the morning, last thing at night and multiple times during the day. And although it’s great for keeping in touch with what’s going on in the world and with those connected to us, would it surprise you to know that Facebook users log in, on average, 8 times per day?! There’s even a Facebook addiction gauge that has been created – called the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale!

It’s so easy to log on and have a quick look at what’s going on. But where you stop? When is it the time to stop scrolling?! It’s great for distraction and fixing of boredom but it can get too much.

People often look to social media for positive reinforcement of their own lives. How many likes have I got? How many comments? Already, a lack of these can have negative effects on a person’s self-confidence.
We are also probably guilty of putting our best moments and best photos online. And why not? I don’t want a photo to appear of me looking grim and raggedy round the edges. And I want people to know if I’ve done something cool or if I have indeed had a great day. I want people to know about my achievements. That’s all completely natural. However, without realising it, it causes a big comparison issue with others. If everyone posts only their positives, then others can innately feel that that person’s life is nothing but positive and can make us doubt our own lives which are of course, like everybody’s lives, full of both positives and negatives.

And does social media induce relaxation? Or does it cause heightened emotions? I think more the latter. People are often more opinionated on social media – much more willing to debate without much of a care for bad language or offending people. As a result, even reading just a few fiery posts can make readers twitchy and agitated.

It is quite well-known for young people to be bullied via social media – or cyberbullying as it is more commonly known. 95% of teenagers have reported witnessing cyberbullying on social media with a third of teens being victims of it themselves. How many stories have we heard involving young people committing suicide due to such harassment? It’s a really sorry state of affairs.

But when social media is used in the right way, it really does have huge benefits. It can keep you connected with people you don’t see as often as you’d like, especially those separated by long distances. It is great for connecting individuals with businesses as Facebook cleverly reaches the right audiences for those companies with its clever algorithms. It can provide help and advice, via support groups, to those with mutual issues or problems.

As with many things in life, moderation is key. A certain amount of everything is fine. But you need to know when enough is enough and recognise when things may be becoming damaging to your health.

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