Science

Instagram: the worst app for your mental health

By Dylan Gaham

Instagram is the worst social media platform for young people’s mental health according to a recent study by the Royal Society for Public Health.

Negative impacts of the platform include increased anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and FoMO (fear of missing out).

A UK wide survey was carried out by the RSPH, asking 1,479 14-24-year-olds about five of the most popular social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube.

The aim of the survey was to find out about the positives and negatives of each platform in terms of health and wellbeing. Factors that were posed to the young people included whether the platform affected their quality and amount of sleep and if the platform made them feel part of a community of like-minded people.

The survey found that Instagram had the most negative impact on mental health, closely followed by Snapchat. YouTube was the only platform that came out as having an overall positive impact, especially when it came to awareness, self-expression, self-identity, community building and loneliness. Twitter and Facebook came second and third best respectively.

It also revealed that all five platforms had negative impacts on sleep, body image, bullying and FoMO. However, they all had positive impacts on emotional support, self-expression, self-identity and community building.

In addition, the study found that 50% of those surveyed said Instagram and Facebook exacerbated feelings of anxiety, 70% felt that Instagram made them feel worse about body image and 2/3 said Facebook made cyber-bullying worse.

Social media is still relatively new and there is little knowledge as to what the long-term effects may be on an individual that uses it regularly, but it has been described as being more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol.

With 91% of 16-24-year-olds using the internet for social networking, this study by the RSPH highlights important issues and possible solutions to improve its impact on young people’s mental health.

As a result of their survey, the RSPH are calling for changes to social media such as a pop-up notification for when you’ve spent a certain period online, a watermark on photos to indicate when they’ve been digitally manipulated, and PSHE lessons that include advice on how to use social media in a healthy way.

The report also states that they would like to see academic institutions, independent researchers and social media companies fund and undertake much more research into the subject.

Social media addiction is thought to affect around 5% of young people. As social networking becomes a part of everyday life for the next generation, it is important that precautions are taken in order to prevent detrimental effects on young people’s mental health.

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