I’ve written before about how social media can be bad for your mental health, but let’s get site specific: Instagram is the worst of the bunch.
A new study surveyed 1,479 teens and young adults in the U.K., asking them about how social media affects them both positively and negatively. They asked about five sites in particular: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Twitter. Participants ranked how each site improved or worsened each of the following health factors:
- understanding of other people’s health experiences
- access to health information
- emotional support
- body image
- real world relationships
- community building
- fear of missing out (FoMO)
Adding the effects of all the factors together, YouTube was the only social media app to edge into the net positive range. Twitter was slightly negative, and Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram got progressively worse.
Instagram was found to help with self-expression, self-identity, community building, and a few others, but it had big negative impacts on sleep, body image, FoMO, and several other factors.
In response to their study, the Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement are calling for the following changes:
- Introduction of a pop-up heavy usage warning on social media
- Social media platforms to identify users who could be suffering from mental health problems by their posts, and discretely signpost to support
- Social media platforms to highlight when photos of people have been digitally manipulated
There are already apps out there you can download that will allow you to set time alerts and scheduled breaks to help you control your social media usage– search your app store for “social media time limit” or something similar. Taking time out to do things that will actually improve your mental health rather than damage it could have a big impact!
To improve your experience within social media, consider unfollowing users who make you feel bad, especially those who post photoshopped images. There are also plenty of positive accounts out there. My favorite is Beauty Redefined, which posts frequent reminders about what matters more than how your body looks.
Take a look at the study’s report. It’s packed with interesting information and cool graphics.