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The Connection between Social Media and Mental Health: Unanswered Questions

May 27, 2023 | 0 comments

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May 27, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments


Since the emergence of social media in the current millennium, According to Feinstein et al (2015, p.4), there has been a significant concern raised on the impact it has on the wellbeing of the younger generation. There has been a considerable evidence on the rising rate of mental health problems in the younger generation predominantly in young women. This evidence connects the increase in the mental health cases with social media. This research explores the connection between mental health and social media, as it gives u the information that we currently know as well as identifying the research questions that is still unanswered.

Social media is defined as an electronic communication platform through which an online community is created via a user with the aim of sharing ideas, videos, experiences and personal messages (Mehta 2018, p. 3). The common social media sites include Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. According to Parks (2017, p.5), the attractiveness of instant messaging services on the social media platform led to the emergence of the platform such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Snapchat. With the group in technology, it has been cumbersome to distinguish different digital services for messaging that is available. This research will focus on mental welfare in a broader perspective, however, it will not be limited to study into specific conditions due to the fact that many researchers in this area have adopted a wide definition of mental health.

Literature review

There has always been ambiguity in the presentation of various studies that link social media effects on mental health. For instance, according to Shawmindfoundation.org. (2018, p.10) the 2017 press release by the American Association of suicidology appeared to be in shock with the impact of all forms of social media have on mental health mostly for young people. This statement is also supported by the research done by the royal society for public health wherein the findings after sampling a large sample it was evident that there was a connection between the social media use and mental health issues (Moreno & Radovic 2018, p.31). However, according to Mehta (2018, p.23) this research faced many criticisms by some scholars for its inconsistent result which was to some extent appeared to be exaggerated, its rudimentary design and the fact that it was easy for the participants to guess the hypothesis in the study and respond accordingly, hence causing forged outcome.

According to the report by the American Academy of Pediatrics linked the users of social media mostly Facebook to depression after using the media for a long period of time, however, the research was termed as erroneous by the scholars as it relied on erroneous primary source (Walrave et al 2016. P.48). In addition to this, the scholar whose work the association relied on disowned the idea of using her report in linking it to social media depression.

The result of individual studies conducted on social media impact on mental health has had mixed results. Though according to the public domain the effects of social media suggests that mere exposure is related to mental health issues, the reliable evident puts more focus on the quality rather than the quantity that makes the social media use critical (Shawmindfoundation.org 2018, p.59). For example, research specifies that one mechanism is the use of social media for the social evaluation with negativity as well as meditation leads to depression. Contrary to this the positive use of social media has been linked to the positive well-being of users by various studies. This, therefore, narrows down to how a user uses the social media as the repercussions can go either way.

On one hand, the previous evidence implies rumination echoes psychopathology, while validity is considered to be a positive quality. Considering this, according to Parks (2017, p.39) the phenomenon which has received minimal attention in the research’s vaguebooking, this refers to a post in social media which contain a vague information and whose creator intended to solicit attention and concern from readers. With this in mind vaguebooking can be both absences of authentic self-presentation and rumination, therefore it is possible to associate it with a mental case in terms of social media use (Parks 2017, p.39).


The quantitative research method was used to conduct the study. According to Matthews and Ross (2014, p.51) this method involves dealing with numerical and measurable phenomena and their relationship and the fact that it is used to give answers to the questions on relationship that is within a measurable variable with a purpose to give explanation, prediction or control makes it perfect research method for the study. The study commenced with data collection that is rooted in the hypothesis and existing theory on the subject and it will, therefore, be followed by the application of inferential as well as descriptive statistics.

The strength of this method is that every step in the method is standardized therefore it eliminates bias, in addition to this, the fact that the method involves a large number of participants its results are usually reliable, valid and hence can be used to make a generalization of a larger population. On the flip side, the major drawback of the quantitative method is that it is prone to errors for instance in cases of mistake in doing the measurement or even a sampling technique which is flawed Ross (2014, p.52).

Data analysis

The sample used comprised of 16 respondents mostly the millennial who are prone and more familiar to the social media. All the participants were valid and met the threshold set to participate in the study and all the questions in the questionnaire were filled making the percentage number of valid participants to be 100%. Among the participant 5 were females while the rest 10 were male and 1 did not answer the demographic question on their gender. The participant was not questioned on their race as it was not relevant for the study.

The participants willingly reported their demographic details including the name and occupation as well as the time they spend on social media. The questionnaire had twenty questions with some of the questions evaluated the vaguebooking behaviour amongst the participants, this was tested by a post on social media as a sample the post was the type that would prompt a friend to be a concern and tend to inquire about what’s going on. On the account of this sample, this scale had adequate reliability.

On the usage of social media, the majority of the participants agreed on enjoying sharing information on social media at 56.3%, with a majority of over 70% of the participants thought it was good for a free speech on social media be.

The questionnaire also had questions which highlighted on the participants respond towards the comments on social media. This aspect was important to assess because it evaluated the magnitude by which social media can trigger a reaction which might be linked to mental health issues. The level of anxiety that a post or a comment of uncertain news trigger on social media is usually high and it recorded 87.5%. The 87.5% of the participants admitted to going further and opening the post in the cases of uncertainty news or information on social media

The duration of time spent on social media was also evaluated by a single question through which the participants were required to estimate averagely the time they spend on the social media platforms.

To assess the emotional connection that the participant had with the social media, the social media use integration scale was used whereby the participants were given to fill. The emotional connection was evaluated by three items which assessed the participant’s value of social media in their lives.

The mental health symptoms were assessed through a general question on mental health while other questions indirectly touched on three dimensions of distress: anxiety, somatization and depression. Majority of the participants agreed that social media influences the mental health with 37.5% of the participants strongly agree with the social media has an influence on the mental health.in addition to this, 75% of the responded agreed that social media is an important factor that leads to depression. Cyberbullying has been a key element in social media which contributes to mental health. 50% of the participants agreed to be upset and having insomnia due to cyberbullying hence the occurrence of mental issues.

For the outcome of the total mental health symptoms, suicidal thought, social anxiety and loneliness, isolated regression analysis were run. Most of the analysis run was carried out with hierarchical multiple regression using pairwise deletion for the data which was missing. The first step involved entering of demographic data which included gender, age, time spends with family, and the second step involved entering the social desirability and social support while the third one included social media importance, vaguebooking and social media variable of time online. Due to the fact that suicidal feelings distribution was not normal similar analysis were run by the use of Poisson regression.

Discussion and recommendation

The idea of social media being a link to mental health problems still remain to be a topic of contention. The study observed several characteristics of social media use among the young adults and their connection with various mental health issues like suicidal thoughts, social anxiety, and loneliness among other mental health problems. The results of the study indicated that the overall use of social media is a poor analyst of mental health issues. Alarms about social media hastening a mental health crisis may be unjustified. However, it’s clear that some aspect of social media use may act as a ‘cry for help’ among people with preexisting mental health problems.

Social media is a double-edged sword that cuts both ends. Cyberbullying remains to be the most dangerous tool that leads to depression in social media and other mental health issues. Considering the fact that every user on social media shares that which is a fabrication of their real selves with majority publishing that they dime fit for the public. Cyberbullying can make social media users turn suicidal as it exposes the truth or lies that subjects the users into moments of embarrassment to both the friends, colleagues and family and is prone to making users turn suicidal.

This research is consistent with the previous research done by several scholars among them was research conducted by Davila J on Facebook depression which suggested the fact that how people use social media is paramount than the time they spend online. Other scholars identify vaguebooking to the negative use of social media which was prone to cause more mental health problems.

Social media has got all the characteristics of reducing the mental problems. It was created with the aim of narrowing geographical boundary and bringing people together, enabling people to share their experiences and stories. All these elements in social media are tools that can be used to reduce the rate of mental problems. However, the negativity in the social media is a major catalyst and ingredient for mental health problems. Based on the findings in this study, social media provides individuals with a choice of consuming the positive content as well as the negative content. It’s upon the users to determine the content that will keep them off social media. The level of anxiety created by the users in social media through vaguebooking is also avoidable. The power of the user to shut the negative content is just a click away.

Reference List

FEINSTEIN, B. A., BHATIA, V., LATACK, J. A., & DAVILA, J. (2015). Social Networking and Depression. 271-286.

MATTHEWS, B., & Ross, L. (2014). Research Methods. https://nls.ldls.org.uk/welcome.html?ark:/81055/vdc_100048092828.0x000001.

Mehta, S. (2018). [online] Esc19.net. Available at: https://www.esc19.net/cms/lib/TX01933775/Centricity/Domain/169/SocialMedia_MentalHealthPresentation_DrShivaniMehta.pdf [Accessed 15 Aug. 2018].

MORENO, M. A., & RADOVIC, A. (2018). Technology and adolescent mental health / Megan A. Moreno, Ana Radovic, editors.

PARKS, P. J. (2017). Social media.

PHILO, G. (1996). Media and mental health. London, Longman.

Shawmindfoundation.org. (2018). [online] Available at: http://shawmindfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Shaw-MindSocial-media.pdf [Accessed 15 Aug. 2018].

WALRAVE, M., PONNET, K., VANDERHOVEN, E., HAERS, J., & SEGAERT, B. (2016). Youth 2.0: social media and adolescence: connecting, sharing and empowering.


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