Social Media and Mental Health

By Interns Peyton B. (15) and Abisola O. from Los Angeles

We use social media for many things including entertainment, finding community, getting information, and sometimes to learn about our sexual and reproductive health! May is National Adolescent Health Month and National Mental Health Month. Mental health issues in adolescents have unfortunately increased from pre-pandemic. Research has shown that there is a correlation between social media and mental health in both positive and negative ways. Excessive social media use can be associated with anxiety, depression, negative body image, and psychological distress. But, on the other side, studies have found that without social media, students are likely to feel lonely or depressed. At the end of the day, social media connects people, and fulfills our innate want for social interaction. So, knowing that there's a good and bad side, how can we navigate social media in a way that is healthy?

The Problem of Media Overload

A lot of young people are getting their news and information directly through social media. News outlets or other media pages will use clickbait or the shock factor to get people to click on articles. This promotes negative or dramatic topics that make news or information seem more dramatic than it actually is. These types of things that we see through the media can lead to “media saturation overload” In fact, the most recent research on this topic has found that more exposure to flashy and negative headlines through media can lead to worsening mental health.

In June 2020, 83% said they were stressed over the nation's future, and during this time period many negative news such as economic turmoil, racial injustice, and the pandemic were being pushed on the media. Many participants of a study on this topic described feeling “anxious,” “overwhelmed,” or “afraid about what might happen” after they viewed a shocking headline. This increases emotional distress and negative psychological states. When you see bold headlines, read the article. The headline may make the situation sound more extreme than it actually is. 


Social media platforms are designed to be addictive for users and this contributes to mindless scrolling. Scientifically, social media releases dopamine, a “feel-good chemical” in the brain, in short bursts through each video. Social media also does a good job of keeping the user very engaged and along with the dopamine release users get through using it, it allows for social media users to keep wanting more and keep scrolling. Remember that excessive time spent consuming media can lead to feelings of comparison, fear of missing out, or taking time away from more productive activities. Addiction to social media is common, but it’s really not good for any teen or young adult's mental health. Set time limits with your social media or consider taking social media breaks to protect your mental health. There are apps available that limit your time on social media. 


We know that not everything we read or see online is true which can be especially important when it comes to health or sexual health information. Make sure to verify that your source of information is reliable or fact check it before you trust it. If you are looking for reliable information about your health, you can trust TeenSource! 

Have a healthy relationship with social media!

While social media does provide benefits and entertainment to users, the negative effects of social media on young people's mental health is an issue that needs to be addressed. Unfollow negative or overwhelming accounts and focus on using social media for connection. Stay aware of how social media affects your mental health and take steps to limit your use if you find it is having a negative impact. You can also check out other tips for having a healthy relationship with social media!