Social media has done a lot of positive things for the world. Facebook has been behind some of the most notable uprisings of the 21st century, the platform to organise several rallies across the Arab world to overthrow years of dictatorships.
Twitter and Facebook campaigns have raised awareness throughout the world from those suffering with cancer to those suffering with the lesser known ALS condition. By connecting those in the business world, numerous start-ups have gone from nothing, to gaining a social media following and developing their business from there.
It’s clear that social media has had a positive effect but what about the negative impacts it’s had, especially on mental health? Complaints of social media bullying and a deterioration in mental health are common in the news these days and that stats behind them are frightening.
Between the years 2010 and 2015, suicide rates in teens rose in direct correlation with an increase in social media use and cyber bullying. Surveys suggested the teens spent hours scrolling through their social media accounts only to feel worse about themselves when done. After all, not many post the bad things about their life on their profile. While cyber bullying, bullying using the internet or different technology, increased from 20 percent to 40 percent in data collected between 2004 and 2010.
Another cause of suicide that has emerged in recent years and that has been aided by social media, is that of the cybersuicide pact. These are deals in which two or more people decide to die, usually by the same means. The added dimension that a social media account can offer is that those who enter into these pacts have never met, but only talked online through forums or bulletin boards. There has been evidence in Japan and South Korea, countries with some of the highest suicide rates in the world, that cybersuicide pacts are at fault for over a third of suicides in these societies.
Teenagers that are found to spend more than five hours daily on their smartphones are 70 percent more likely to commit suicide while 12th grade girls who 30 percent more of whom use social media are 14 percent more likely to be depressed. The figures behind the mental health of teenagers is frightening and it seems governments and policy makers need to make some changes to safeguard teenagers against the damage social media can do to their mental health.