Social Media and Mental Health

By Cara Johnson

Social media has been studied to find the effects on mental health. Overall, Instagram has been found to be the worst influence on mental health, and specifically body image.

  • The more time spent browsing images, the more teens displayed dissatisfaction with self-perception and showed depressive symptoms (Fardouly et al. 2018)
  • Based on the new algorithms, visibility on Instagram plays a role in how many people actually see our posts, influencing the amount of likes we get
  • Since social media users feel validation through the amount of likes they get, the use of Instagram overall affects people’s self-satisfaction
  • Young women tend to be the most vulnerable to what other people think, but the use of social media heightens this because of the way edits can be misleading
  • The amount of likes people get affects their self-esteem
Edited photos represent idealistic body type expectations

People see images of unrealistic body types and expect that if they do what the person pictured does (fitness or diet-wise) they will eventually be able to look like that. People also expect these ideals of others. Users of social media are becoming obsessed with the way they look and how they appear to others.

Instagram negatively affects males and their perceptions of themselves, too, including a rise in males with eating disorders and experiencing bigorexia, or obsessive muscle-building. Posting pictures of fitness and gym workouts can be motivational for followers who see this content and can be a good way to express our own progress of physical health. However, people try to outdo others and it becomes a competition of who appears the strongest, most fit, most consistent with their workouts, etc. This can lead to obsessive and unhealthy behaviors such as dietary changes, over working one’s body, lower-self esteem because of dissatisfaction, and depression. 

Both female and male Instagram models reinforce idealistic expectations of people’s bodies, which causes people to think negatively about their own bodies, since we are constantly comparing ourselves to people we follow in Instagram and other social media platforms.