Do you know that feeling when you crawl into bed at 10 thinking, "wow, I'm really taking care of myself"? Probably following a long tiring day. But as you are settling in, your phone dings with a text message from your best friend. "We're grabbing drinks down the street do you want to join?" What do you respond? You can't just ignore it. What if she thinks your mad? But you just put on your pajamas. You can't tell her you're busy, she won't believe you, what do you do? Do you even want to stay in bed? What if that guy is there? What if he's there and your friend dances with him because you aren't there to? Does he even want to dance with you? It's hard to tell - he texted you first yesterday, but he liked another girls picture on Instagram yesterday. So should you even go? Staying connected with others often creates a whole internal dialogue of anxiety within us.

As social media has evolved, people are able to pick and choose what parts of themselves to display to the internet. Several studies have shown that our self esteem is linked to the amount of positive feedback (such as likes & comments) we receive on social media. "According to the Behavioral Model of Depression, low levels of positive reinforcement are responsible for depressive symptoms, and increasing positive reinforcement can be obtained by increasing the number and types of gratifying/pleasurable events in one’s environment." In other words, our self esteem is found to be directly correlated with the amount of positive interactions and support we receive on our social media accounts. Body image among young men & women seem to also be heavily correlated to online interaction. The Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health shows a "link between the use of the Internet, especially social networking sites (such as Facebook and Myspace), and body image concerns in a large study involving 1087 girls aged between 13 and 15 years." Specifically with social media, because we are only viewing what other people want us to see (or the "highlight reels" of someones life), we compare our life to the best parts of someone else's, which almost always seems inadequate in comparison. Because many teens have unsupervised access to the internet, bullying can extend beyond the playground bullying and can reach a wider audience on a more accessible platform. "The study ‘Cyberbullying and the Digital Self' presents a case study of a cyberbully victim who, following her parent’s insistence that she delete her Facebook account, went on to commit suicide ‘as if the death of her online persona foreshad- owed her own death’. The case study is used to provide an example where the ‘digital or online self’ is an extension of the actual self, implying that for victims of cyberbullying, it is not as easy as not logging on or just turning off the computer. This study shows the unique importance of an ‘online’ identity to young people with psychological difficulties."
FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out, is a serious problem especially among teens who use the internet. here is a short video which explains the basic concept of FOMO. The main idea is that when we see photos of what other people are doing, we fear that we are missing out on that experience, or that we could be doing something better than what we are doing in that moment.
fomo.gifSimilarly, when we post something we are doing, the idea is we post it to inflict a sense of jealousy among other social media users, whether consciously or not. Constant worrying over whether we are missing out on something better can lead to feelings of isolation and general social anxiety.
Smartphone, internet & social media use has been tied to anxiety and depression in teens. According to Computers in Human Behavior, although "overusing one’s smartphone does not account fully for depression or anxiety," it can greatly increase the severity to which depression and anxiety are felt. Not everyone who stays connected via social media will exhibit signs of depression, but as the journal states, "Facebook [enhances] feelings of connectedness for well-adjusted people, but those prone to depression [are] likely to feel more disconnected." In 2011, an article coined the term "Facebook depression," to describe "a relationship between depression and social networking activity to support the claim that preteens and teens who spend a great deal of time on social media sites begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression."emotional-drain.jpg(source 4)In our society, use of social media presents a catch-22. Without social media use, we feel we cannot stay connected. However, with increased use and connectivity comes higher levels of depression, lowered self-esteem, and fear of missing out.
On top of social media use increasing the risk of mental disorders, there are important developmental lessons learned from real time social interactions that are being missed when behind the screen. As this article points out, when teens interact, what they are doing is "experimenting, trying out skills, and succeeding and failing in tons of tiny real-time interactions [which] kids today are missing out on. For one thing, modern teens are learning to do most of their communication while looking at a screen, not another person." For an increasing number of people, the Internet is becoming more of a social outlet than the real world. Online gaming, shopping, chatting and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, are slowly replacing in-person interactions with others often to the detriment of one's health.
Research confirms that social media is affecting our wellbeing. They have found that the more time and emotion that teenagers invested into social media, the more they experienced negative effects on their mental health. This includes higher instances of anxiety and depression, worse sleep quality and lower self-esteem. With adults spending on average 2.1 hours per day and teens 2.7 hours per day on social media, we have a growing desire to stay continually connected to what others are doing.

For the 467 adolescents interviewed, who were aged between 11 and 17, anxiety was beginning to seep into their lives, as their social media use increased. This was largely due to the perceived pressure to be constantly available to respond to posts or texts.
The researchers found that social media use impacted sleep quality and that those who experienced the worst sleep had logged on at night.
For example, when one is planning to go to bed but decided to have “one last look” at Facebook, suddenly, an hour or two later passes by and that person will be tired and grumpy.

It’s clear that the internet may be taking a toll on our mental wellbeing, as our need to be constantly connected day and night can contribute to stress and low mood for many social media users. Furthermore, struggling to switch off at bedtime means that many of us aren’t getting the sleep we require, leaving us tired and more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.

Facebook and other social media may contribute to depression in three ways—bullying, comparison with others, and influencing self-worth
Bullying can occur when ‘friends’ post mean or derogatory statements about others or upload unflattering photos and make negative comments about them.

Facebook friends’ lists and status postings can have a detrimental effect when children or teens begin comparing themselves with others on Facebook and find themselves lacking. Thought processes, such as “They have x number of friends and I don’t” or “They have the relationship status I want or the life I want,” can lead to low self-esteem..
Concerning self-worth, the child or teen may think, ‘What if I post something and nobody responds to it or clicks the “Like” button on it.’ Consequently, it is easy for them to become depressed when they are getting their sense of self-worth from the approval of others on social networking sites.

Opportunity for Discussion
Controversy aside, the AAP report has brought attention to the importance of social networking in the psychosocial functioning of children and teens. The report should be viewed as clinicians’ recommendations rather than research findings, according to Megan Moreno, MD, MSEd, MPH, an assistant professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. Increasing awareness of both the positive and the negative influences of sites such as Facebook can help pediatric health providers and social workers better understand the complexities of depression in today’s cyber-connected children and teens for improved therapeutic intervention.


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  2. Elhai, Jon D., Jason C. Levine, Robert D. Dvorak, and Brian J. Hall. "Fear of missing out, need for touch, anxiety and depression are related to problematic smartphone use." Computers in Human Behavior 63 (2016): 509-16. Web.
  3. What Is FOMO. YouTube. YouTube, 25 Mar. 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2017. <>.
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