Social media generate anxiety and depression when behaviors similar to drug dependence syndrome develop. Between 2019 and 2020, Facebook carried out an investigation to determine the effects of its social network Instagram on its users.
The results were delivered to the CEOs of Facebook, a company that decided not to share them and keep them secret. However, the documents were obtained and published by The Wall Street Journal.
Some of the results of the report are that it aggravates the body image problems of 1 out of 3 teenage women and causes an increase in anxiety and depression in young women. The document indicates that 13% of British respondents, and 6% of Americans, blame that social media for their suicidal thoughts.
Other reports have found similar results about the company led by Mark Zuckerberg, such as that of the Pew Research Center in the United States. In 2018, he assured that 45% of young people feel obliged to upload content.
Most women are unhappy with their physical appearance
Also, a study conducted by the University of Cambridge in 2020, determined that young people spend more than 2 hours a day on social media and are more likely to suffer from mental health problems.
The experts who carried out the research emphasized that one of the key points analyzed is related to the image, since Instagramis a social media designed to publish photos and videos, with the possibility of including filters in them.
For example, 9 out of 10 teenagers said they were unhappy with their body. Women –very especially– compare their image with what they watch on social media and that is why they opt for cosmetic surgery, according to this report.
As a solution, the researchers propose that users receive a warning in cases where the image is retouched and that they receive a notification in case they are using social media excessively.
Why social media affect mental health
Master in Psychology, Javier Vindas: “It is estimated that Instagram has around 500 million active users, of which 40% are young people under 22 years old”.
To understand the reason for its effect on mental health, Javier Vindas, Master in Psychology, explained that the use of social media is one of the repetitive behaviors that are related to compulsive practice on the Internet: “This repetitive use of the Internet and social media, allows satisfying 2 basic needs: One, solitary stimulation, which is a search for information, images and even sounds related to games and obtaining new programs. Two, the search for social interaction through an alter ego that can also be found associated with hypersexuality in relation to pornography or Internet gaming, where all these mixtures can occur”.
According to the expert, social media generate anxiety and depression when behaviors with a compulsion similar to the drug dependence syndrome develop: “In both drug dependence and compulsive behaviors to social media, a loss is generated control of consumer activity. Also, a need arises to repeat the behavior despite the adverse consequences it has. In other words, there are symptoms such as the need for more activity and loss of behavior control, which in turn generate depressive mood, irritability, psychomotor restlessness, impaired concentration, sleep disorders and anxiety problems”.
Troublesome behavior alerts when there is excessive use of social media
Regarding how to know when there is an excess in the use of social media, Vindas pointed out that attention should be paid to the presence of problematic behavior that affects family life, studies, work and even the nutritional aspect.
“When people access a lot of social media, a syndrome similar to that of dependence is generated, then an intense desire is born, they lose control to start or end consumption, they develop physical discomforts such as depression or anxiety; in other words, they abandon other sources of pleasure or fun”, emphasized the expert.
Vindas recalled that anxiety and depression reactions can be related to physiological changes at the brain level, which in turn are associated with pleasure and the achievement of compulsive behavior.