Is it worth the like? The effects of social media on mental health

Each generation is honored with a unique signature trait. Some are synonymous with bravery in wars, some for pursual of innovation. But not Millennials.

According to a recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association, Millennials can add yet another description to the pre-existing list of critiques — “the most anxious generation” — and they carry the reason in their pockets.

Lyndsay Cogdill, a Samford University alumnu and counselor has worked with Samford students for three years, said that social media has created a “significant shift” in the types of mental health struggles students experience. According to Counseling Services statistics, 75 percent of their clients in the last 12 months name anxiety as a significant disturbance.

“A large majority of students, whether it’s the primary presenting issue or secondary issue, come in with anxiety,” Cogdill said. “It continues to be surprising to me how many people struggle with significant symptoms of anxiety that become paralyzing or are getting in the way of being able to do anything they want to do.”

According to the Huffington Post, 98 percent of college-aged students use social media on average 5 hours a day—a third of waking hours.

“When we are looking at screens, our minds and bodies are taking in our senses for information as they are always doing,” Cogdill said. “If I am a student who in all my downtime looks at my phone instead of taking a walk across the quad listening to birds, sitting down in the caf thinking about my friends’ conversation, or how my food tastes, my brain can get overwhelmed. Trying to process that much extra stimuli or senses simultaneously has been proven to create chronic stress in our bodies. It’s exhausting.”

Taylor Baker, a junior health sciences major and resident assistant, lives with both anxiety and depression and said that social media has both positive and negative effects in her life.

“Not knowing if I am liked makes me very anxious. It’s hard not to compare. I will constantly check to see why my photo has not been liked a certain number of times. If I am at home doing nothing, checking my phone is all I do,” said Baker.

In contrast, Baker explained that social media can also calm her at times when she feels tied to her family back home through platforms like Facebook. In fact, she said social media is needed.

“Even if people experience a negative outcome from social media, they’re going to have it anyway because they can stay so closely connected with so many other people,” she said.  “Everyone wants to be liked by everyone.”

Abigail McCarter, Staff Writer

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