Social media: Beneficial or detrimental?

Health effects of society’s most crucial form of communication


Sindhuja Gudur

Carissa checking my social medias

Charlie Tatum, Sindhuja Gudur, Cholee Huscher, and Marley Ward

Sindhuja Gudur
Carissa checking her social medias

Seventy-one percent of teens say they use social media, but how does this form of communication affect you?

Social media is a prominent aspect of people’s lives. Checking Instagram or Snapchat has become a second nature for us; however, few people are aware of how social media affects us.

Multiple studies have shown that using social media can increase the dopamine levels in your brain. Dopamine is the chemical released in your brain that causes you to feel jovial.  At the same time, other findings have proven that social media is the leading cause of depression, anxiety and loneliness among teens.  

People all over RCMS have had different experiences using platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and more. Some people say social media boosts their confidence, while others believe it causes them anxiety.

“I was judging myself so much about what people thought would be okay.  It really caused me to stress out,” said 13-year-old Liam D’Souza from the Yellow Jackets team. Liam is one of the many people at RCMS who finds social media “fake and disruptive.”

A study by Common Sense Media  shows that an average person spends about nine hours consuming media everyday (including television, social media, and other forms). This is about 26.6 years of a human’s life that could be spent usefully.

“Social media is different from me listening to music or a podcast, because social media includes a lot of visuals,” said Liam. “You just sit there staring at your screen. They can never just put it on in the background while doing work.”

Mrs. Rebecca Little, the counselor for the Trailblazer team, has experienced social media distractions as well.

“If my phone was on and it dinged I would walk over and get it even though you’re interviewing me,” Mrs. Little said.

However, one of the biggest consequences to this form of communication isn’t just a distraction, but how it can affect mental health.

According to The Center for Discovery, about 20% of teenagers have experienced depression before they reached adulthood. This number is only rising and largely due to the amount of stress social media causes.

“On Instagram, everyone just publicizes the best parts of their life,” said Liam. “It’s always a competition.”

Social media can lead to depression and anxiety, mainly because of the fear of missing out on events. Another key contributor is cyberbullying.

For example, many teens go on Instagram and see their friends hanging out and having fun together without them. This makes them feel like their friends don’t like or want them, which eventually sends many teens into a spiraling depression.

Another reason some teens don’t have a favorable outlook on social media is because of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication to bully and harass another person.

“Between when I grew up and now, it just adds another layer where potential hate can occur,” said Ms. Stefanie Lohman, an eighth grade gym teacher. “My nephew, who lives in another state and is a seventh grader, gets bullied a lot on Xbox. They make a lot of fun of him in terms of his game playing stuff.  Sometimes I get random texts from him telling me about it, and I know it really upsets him.”

Eighth grader Carissa Zhu (of the Explorers team) also shared some unpleasant social media experiences.  She says she was ambushed with rude messages after her and her friend had a fight.  “Everyone was like, ‘Oh my gosh, Carissa is so mean.’”

Anyone can be a victim of cyber bullying and fear of missing out which contributes to why the statistics for anxiety and depression these days among teens is so high.

There is also another side this story though. Many people say that social media entertains them, gives them confidence and makes them happier overall.

“Around seventh grade, I was getting addicted to social media.” Carissa said. “But it made me way more social and I began to talk with more people.”

In a study, researchers at the UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) brain mapping center discovered that different parts of your brain become activated by “likes” and comments on posts.

Lead author Lauren Sherman said, “When teens learn that their own pictures have supposedly received a lot of likes, they show significantly greater activation in parts of the brain’s reward circuitry.”  This reward circuitry could inspire teens to use social media more often.

Because adolescence is a key period in someone’s life for social learning, teens might even be learning to read likes and shares instead of facial expressions.

According to a study of Australian consumers by San Francisco-based media-buying firm RadiumOne, social media is a dopamine gold mine. Dopamine is a chemical released in your brain that causes you to be happy or excited.  

“Every time we post, share, ‘like,’or  comment on a post we are creating an expectation,” according to the study. “We feel a sense of belonging and advance our concept of self through sharing.”

However, as soon as we lose that rush of dopamine we feel sad and can fall into depression.

“I think we need to manage social media and not have social media manage us. At the end of the day you should take your phone out of the room and read a book or something not involved on social media,” says Mrs.Little.

While social media enlightened people’s lives, it has also dulled lives. This shows social media has changed our society forever.