Written by Emma McAteer - February 2018

Social media is becoming increasingly important to the wellbeing and mental health of young people today. Mental health problems affect 1 in 4 people every year and no one should feel ashamed about it. Social media has undoubtedly changed the way that we communicate and share information.

Firstly, I want it to be clear that I love social media. When (like anything) it is enjoyed in moderation, social media is a wonderful thing. It is a powerful tool for young people; allowing us to voice our opinions on matters that affect or interest us, and enables us to become active citizens. On a more mundane, day-to-day level, social media allows us to communicate with friends, stay up-to date with news, share our experiences and meet new people.

However, there is a downside to social media and it can negatively affect our mental health. The most harmful mental health effects appear for users who use social media for two hours per day or more. Even if you do not use social media that much, reducing your usage may be helpful to improving your mental health.

I have seen first-hand how cyberbullying can have devastating impacts on young peoples’ mental health. Even though there isn’t much we can do to prevent people from saying whatever they want online regardless of the truth, there are things that can be done to mitigate the situation.

Be SMART:

  • Screenshot any offensive or harassing messages
  • Make sure your privacy settings are set so only people you know and trust can see what you post
  • Avoid further communication with or retaliation to those sending the messages
  • Report the incident(s) to internet service providers’ websites and/or social media sites
  • Talk to a parent, carer, teacher or friend if you are concerned or contact victim support

I believe that social media gives us a warped view of life. We experience and witness ever angle of our own lives; the good and the bad. Then, we go online and see only one angle of someone else’s life. We don’t see what they are going through, we only see the highlights. We inevitably compare ourselves to others, even celebrities who have spent hours in hair and makeup before taking the “perfect picture”. So, I think that when we go online we need to change the channel in our mind. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others. We must remind ourselves that social media is not a true representation of life.

I am often surprised by the amount of time I spend on my phone, so I downloaded a great app, called Moment, to track this. It will give you a breakdown of how much time you spend on your phone per day and what apps you are using.

If you are struggling with mental health issues, please don’t be afraid to look for support:

  • Childline: 0800 1111
  • Mind infoline: 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans: 116 123