From trolling to ‘like’ anxiety and a feeling of always being ‘on’, most of us have experienced at least a few of the pitfalls of social media use, but now it turns out that even having a gander through our feeds can have a damaging effect on our mental health. Mental health experts and campaigners have previously linked the pressures associated with social media to poor mental health among the young in particular , and now Facebook has acceded that intense social media use, and in particular the constant observing, checking and scrolling of news feeds, can lead to “negative self comparison” and users to “feel worse afterwards”.
Facebook’s director of research, David Ginsberg, isolated the issue of “reading and not interacting with people” as the main cause of poor mental health post-scroll, but recommended that becoming more engaged with content and other users on social media networks could in fact enhance wellbeing. While this may in part be true, and none of us can deny the perks of being able to chat to a loved one on the other side of the globe 24/7, throwing the ball back into the user’s court seems to be missing the point somewhat. Of course we’re all responsible for our own social media consumption, but given that grown adults find the likes of Instagram highly addictive, teenagers are thus particularly vulnerable to the beck and call of constant social media updates and eroding of self-worth that they can bring. From glossing over daily life with filters to online bullying, the negative impact of social media can be pervasive, and while the introduction of features such as a “take a break” tool and “snooze button” by Facebook execs to allow users to both limit and mute social media updates is a positive step forwards in terms of controlling what we see, improving emotional wellbeing across the board will take more than essentially putting our social media feeds on pause. A dedication to combatting online abuse, preventing the proliferation of alarming fake news and an investment of profits into positive mental health initiatives and education would all contribute to making social media platforms a more positive space, which of course feeds into daily life (literally).