The influence of social media to humans has only increased over time. Right now, this influence is of a magnitude sufficient to affect our mental health. The question is, is the impact of these social media platforms negative or positive?

#StatusofMind, a 2017 campaign from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Young Health Movement investigated the effect of social media on the health of young people. Here are their findings:

Net Impact of the Top 5 Social Media Platforms, Adapted from “#StatusOfMind: Social media and young people’s mental health and wellbeing”, by the Royal Society for Public Health and Young Health Movement, 2017, retrieved from https://www.rsph.org.uk

Methodology

To measure the impact of the social media platforms to young people, they were asked to rate each social media platform based on 14 factors. Each platform was rated based on the extent they made each factor better or worse:

  1. Awareness and understanding of other people’s health experiences
  2. Access to expert health information you know you can trust
  3. Emotional support
  4. Anxiety
  5. Depression
  6. Loneliness
  7. Sleep
  8. Self-expression
  9. Self-identity
  10. Body image
  11. Real world relationships
  12. Community building
  13. Bullying
  14. FoMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

The rating scale ranges from -2 to 2, with -2 being “a lot worse” and 2 being “a lot better.

Highlights

Video platform YouTube was rated as the most positive. Meanwhile, photo and video sharing platform Instagram was deemed to have the most negative impact.

Let’s see which particular factors each social media platform have the best and the worst impact:

01. Youtube (Rank 1)

  • Most positive impact in: Health awareness, Self-expression
  • Most negative impact in: Sleep
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02. Twitter (Rank 2)

  • Most positive impact in: Self-expression
  • Most negative impact in:  Sleep, bullying

03. Facebook (Rank 3)

  • Most positive impact in: Emotional Support
  • Most negative impact in: Sleep, Bullying, FOMO

04. Snapchat (Rank 4)

  • Most positive impact in: Self-expression
  • Most negative impact in: Sleep, Bullying, FoMO

05. Instagram (Rank 5)

  • Most positive impact in: Self-expression
  • Most negative impact in:  Sleep, Body image, FOMO

We can see that the negative impact common among the five social media platforms is a lower quality of sleep. Issues on body image, bullying, and FoMO also appeared to be common detrimental effects of social media based on the results.

Self-expression  appears to be the primary positive impact of these social media platforms.

Moderation is key

Social media platforms are designed to engage people. This is evident on how the sleep of young people is affected by these platforms. They are compelled to continue clicking and interacting for long periods. At the same time, some use these platforms to hurt and bully others. This is bad news for the mental health of our young people.

However, social media isn’t all bad. Right now, it has become an outlet for the young people to express themselves, to get emotional support, and even build communities.

Given these detrimental effects, though, we really need to be mindful of our time in the digital world.  This is now made easier by applications which can monitor your social media screen time.

Social media platforms truly are double-edged. It is upon us to use these tools wisely to reap benefits from it.

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