175+ Years of Media In Assam & Beyond
The Psychological Effects of Social Media
It is undeniable that communication has been eased through social media platforms like facebook, twitter, instagram etc. and people find it easier than ever to connect to people (How social media helps and hurts us, n.d.).
The Psychology of Social Media (2019) highlights social media as a necessity across ages and societies. The same article also mentions how we have been shaped and evolved in the collective front in our approaches towards information gathering and communication with technological advancements.
This constant, consistent and ferocious progress has been reported to moderate both benefits and harms through the bio-psycho-socio lens.
The traffic of such platforms has biological, psychological and social impacts. Biologically, when people are exposed to gaming and liked images, multiple MRI studies have reported activeness in brain centers responsible for processing rewards and pleasures. This also creates a possibility that people may develop obsessive need for similar stimulation of the brain over time (The Psychology of Social Media, 2019).
On the other hand tracking apps have helped people keep a check on their health, accepting information about wellbeing and compliance to healthy lifestyles and self care (How social media helps and hurts us). But the aftermath when use turns to abuse gives rise to serious issues.
Sleep deprivation, lack of physical activity, biochemical indications of addiction etc. are certain detrimental impacts on physical health highly correlated to psychological conditions (The Psychological Effects of Social Media on Teens, 2019; How social media helps and hurts us, n.d.). Manifested psychological conditions that have high relation to the physical impacts of social media usage are addiction, anxiety and depression.
These psychological conditions are related to the brain biology in such a way that certain studies suggests biochemical changes of the brain while under those conditions (Walton, 2017).
Simpler (2015) mentions that users develop a tendency to become dependent on social media technology for decision making. This study also throws light on the rush of impulse to gratify updated information about current status on matters and of states. People are seasoning on expecting instant information with quick routes that at times may not be the entire truth.
In such circumstances, users are vulnerable to model their behaviors and attitudes according to fiction, far from reality (Gruber & Thau, 2003). This impact and tweak of the vulnerability depends on the type of exposure. McNaughton (2007) conducted a study to understand the impact of news media on stress and cognitive factors. The results implied that exposure to negative news feed via media adds on to anxiety and depression.
High exposure to negative news can be related to high levels of anxiety, depression and increased irrational thoughts. Specially, it can contribute to symptoms of trait anxiety, a dispositional type of anxiety that is more enduring and embedded as temperament. It further contributes to lowered optimism, of course naturally, with the upsurge of irrational thoughts related to vague fears of uncertain things.
While understanding depression under the light of social media usage, Appel and colleagues (2015) found that Facebook users are prone to evaluate themselves by comparing to ‘better others’. This upwards social comparison is related to low self esteem and platforms like Facebook very much facilitates the arena for doing so.
These comparison builds up envy when brushing against someone perceived as better (attractive mostly) and envy is concluded (irrationally) with inferior self status. Comparison brings in standards and ideals that are normative (Srivastava, et al., 2018). This is one underlying mechanism uncovered on how social media usage and mental health issues like depression develop a relationship.
So, a link between the two variables, social media platforms and mental health consequences is very much established.
A 2018 study by Hunt attempted to establish a causal relationship between multiple social media platforms like facebook, snapchat, instagram etc. with mental health issues. It was stated that these platforms have a direct causal impact on the entire spectrum of wellbeing (emotions and thoughts) rather than just a few of the most highlighted clinical criteria.
The researcher also stressed that lesser social media usage actually decreases feelings of loneliness and low mood, as it blocks paths for social comparison. Hence, the misunderstanding that everyone else’s life is much easier and ‘cooler’ than mine doesn’t get nurtured. The author also expresses that it is hard to determine on the appropriate hours of social media usage, but people need to negotiate on a balance that is less harmful; the apps are going to stay, we are to mediate ourselves for our own sake.
An upsurge of online video games that features communication is an ‘in trend’. Certain gaming platforms involve the gamer in violent behaviors which affect more than violent movies or scenes. Victor (2017) particularly highlights the adolescent population as being affected by such indulgement. Video games create space for active involvement in violence in comparison to being passive observers of video or film violence.
It contributes to aggressive and violent behavior in children, but, they are not the only contributors to aggressive behavior. Along with behavioral side effects, media promotions and taglines scrolled can lead to building up of stereotypes and stigmas. Srivastava and colleagues (2018) stated that media content may be adulterated with opinions, glorifications and sensations alongside facts that may mislead viewers and readers.
Exaggerations, for eg: while reporting celebrity self harm behavior, may trigger tendencies of self harm among at risk population. However the same effects can be normalized when professional decorum, healthy alternatives, awareness and hope are projected in the content.
Despite multiple studies stressing on showing the negative psychological impacts of social media, there are some positive touches too. Across population (age, culture, geography and other demographic criteria) objectively and purposefully dominated usage surprisingly has great psychological benefits. The earlier quoted article ‘The Psychology of Social Media’ (2019) mentions that many studies have found such usage to boost confidence, decision making and critical thinking abilities.
The dynamics beneath are easy accessibility to opportunities, like-minded people, connection with achievement oriented communication channels, space for the unique self and connections with support groups.
Research in the field of social media psychology is still new and it has a long way to go till many hypothetical statements are tested. But evidence so far points out that social media is both a blessing and a trap, based on the usage and user factors (The Psychology of Social Media, 2019).
The above mentioned information cumulatively implies that people fall in to abusive social media usage due to its baiting characteristics which can lead to a decrease in mental health wellbeing. However, such behavior is tamable and depends on one’s will to see alternatives. Developing such perspectives will depend on a lot of individual, lifestyle and environmental factors.
Nevertheless, the solution lies with us locating this control within ourselves rather than waiting for another ban notice that may create only a nuance in the name of difference. To see realistic, productive and measureable goals to social media usage may definitely set into motion positive mental health rides.
- Simpler III, M. F. (2012). The Unjust Web We Weave: The Evolution of Social Media and its Psychological Impact on Juror Impartiality and Fair Trials. 36 Law & Psychol. Rev., 275 (2012)
2 Gruber, E. & Thau, H. (2003). Sexually Related Content on Television and Adolescents of Color: Media Theory, Physiological Development, and Psychological Impact. The Journal of Negro Education, 72 (4). https://doi.org/10.2307/3211195
3. McNaughton-cassill, M. E.(2001). The news media and psychological distress. Anxiety, Stress & Coping: An International Journal, 14(2), 193–211. DOI: 10.1080/10615800108248354
4. Appel,H., Crusius. J, Gerlach, A. L. (2015) Social Comparison, Envy, and Depression on Facebook: A Study Looking at the Effects of High Comparison Standards on Depressed Individuals. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 34(4), 277-289 DOI: 10.1521/jscp.2015.34.4.277
5. “Social media use increases depression and loneliness, study finds.” (2018). University of Pennsylvania, ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181108164316.htm
6. Walton, A. G. (2017). 6 Ways Social Media Affects Our Mental Health.Alice G. Walton. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/06/30/a-run-down-of-social-medias-effects-on-our-mental-health/?sh=6adc46922e5a
7. The Psychology of Social Media. (2019) Kings University. https://online.king.edu/news/psychology-of-social-media/
8. The Psychological effects of social media on teens. (2019). Newport Academy. https://www.newportacademy.com/resources/mental-health/psychological-effects-of-social-media/
9) How Social Media Helps and Hurts Us. (n.d.). https://www.allpsychologyschools.com/psychology/social-media-psychology/
10. Srivastava, K., Chaudhary, S., Bhat, P.S. & Mujawar, S. (2018). Media and mental health. Indian Psychiatry Journal, 27(1), 1–5. doi: 10.4103/ipj.ipj_73_18.
11. Victor, A. M. (2017). The Psychological Impact of Media on Adolescent. IOSR Journal of Nursing and Health Science, 6(1), 70-75. www.iosrjournals.org. https://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jnhs/papers/vol6-issue1/Version-7/K0601077075.pdf
This article already published in the historical book “175 Years of Media in Assam & Beyond” published by Mahabahu on the occasion of the celebration of the 175 Years of Media in Assam in 2021, December, at Guwahati.
[Sampreeti Das is an Academician and REBT and Transpersonal and Holistic Psychotherapist. She is currently working in Kristu Jayanti College, Bengaluru as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology. She has contributed her services as a counselor and psychotherapist through the University Counselling Cell, Assam Don Bosco University, Departmental Community Counselling Cell, Assam Don Bosco University, Varta Trust, Bonobology and Dhara helpline for Covid-19 frontliners by Global Pandemic Response Forum.
She received her training in academics from Lady Shri Ram College Delhi University and Guwahati University. She has been certified by Iscah Wellness as a practitioner in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy under the supervision of Suniti Baruah, founder of Iscah Wellness and a Diploma in Transformational and Holistic Psychotherapy under Dr. Gaurav Deka, founder, Cognial Healers’ Academy. Apart from the above she has completed certificate courses in Mindfulness, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Family Systems Therapy, Specific Learning Disability, Mental Health during Covid -19 and Tele-counselling under eminent practitioners and prestigious organizations.
Sampreeti Das is experienced as a teacher for 8 years, life skills session speaker for 4 years and as a counselor and psychotherapist for 6 years. She has also taken initiatives to spread mental health awareness in the community through face to face public interactions and multimedia platforms from her previous institutions of affiliation collaborating with programmes like Unnat Bharat Abhiyan and organizations like Hope Foundation. Email: email@example.com]
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