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In a world dominated by social media, how has our experience of mental health changed?

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A recent study by the Prince’s Trust – a charity that enables youth into education, work and training – says that 18% of the 2,162 people surveyed disagreed with the statement that “life really is worth it”. The number might seem small but given that it has risen from 9% just 9 years ago and the survey involved people in the age group of 16 to 25 years, it drives home a rather grim reality – that young people are increasingly disillusioned with life itself.

The study also further found that the aspect of life that took the sharpest decline was relationships with friends and emotional health. Material aspects of life like money and accommodation were in fact, more or less steady over the last nine years. They also found that nearly half the respondents pointed to social media as the reason why they feel anxious about their future when they see their friends supposedly doing much better on outlets such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. So should we limit the use of social media and should more attention be paid to youngsters by universities and work environments to signs and symptoms of social media-induced feelings of inadequacy?

The answer to the second question is a tad easier than the first so I will deal with that first. With regard to the question of universities and workplace management dealing with signs of inadequacy, the emphasis has to be on separating the real from the reel. Reinforcement of the concept that social media such as Facebook and Instagram show only the good and not the bad is imperative to prevent the notion that whatever we see on these platforms is the only truth that exists in other peoples’ lives. This can help with not just bringing awareness about the problem but also help with insight on the part of those affected and encourage them to seek help. The presence of a support system – whether that is through specialist counsellors or even professors taking an additional interest – is important in getting through the potential pitfalls and downward spirals that thought processes of failure and inadequacy can give.

As for limiting social media use, I think it’s unreasonable to expect there to be any kind of implementation of external control on people who are adults – even if they may be in the infancy of adulthood. Any kind of control, whether it is a complete social media blackout or a limitation on the number of hours of use, has to come from the person themselves. Counsellors and other people of importance in that person’s life must be there to facilitate. Forcing anybody to limit usage of social media is going to have no effect if the person themselves don’t think they have a problem. I also think that there must be an inherent realisation that social media is what people want and like to put up in public and that there is a lot more to every person than meets the eye on a photograph on Instagram.

This is obviously not an exhaustive discourse on this topic but hopefully this just goes to give a glimpse at the real depth of the issue at hand that has led to an increased rate of suicides among teenagers in England.

Last modified: 5th March 2019

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