Social Media and Young Men’s Mental Health
Social media is a part of almost young adult’s life. According to one study, the average age in which an adolescent gets at least one social media account is 12.5 years old. With young adult men likely having grown up with social media accounts, it’s not difficult to understand how these social sites can change the way you communicate, and participate with the world around you.
Social media likely developed how most young adults learned how to communicate with their peers and those outside of their normal social setting, how they strengthened their interpersonal skills, and how they built friendships. But more often than not, young men are also dealing with the negative aspects of a life with social media. From increased feelings of loneliness, isolation, and even decreased empathy, current research indicates that young adults—the most active social media users—are at a higher risk of developing mental health issues. Although it’s still unclear as to how exactly social media and mental health are connected, it’s not difficult to see the impact, whether good or bad, that social media can have on those who are already struggling with deterioration of mental health.
For all young adults—especially those who use social media as a form of escapism—it’s far too easy to fall down the rabbit hole of social platforms; comparing one’s life to yours, and slowly wrecking your self-esteem. It’s so simple to look at a snapshot of a stranger’s life and wish for something different. To be different. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that young men want to feel like they’re not only keeping up with their peers, but also keeping up with the appearance they’ve built for themselves on a social platform.
Warning signs that it’s time to take a break
What happens when all this digital communication begins to affect your mental health and well-being? What signs should we be looking for in ourselves and our loved ones that it may be time to take a break from, or quit social media altogether?
Look for symptoms of depression and mental distress. Whether you’re a young adult, or a parent of one, look at the “before and after” behaviors when hopping on a social media site. If you’re experiencing:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Social isolation
- Feelings of loneliness
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Suicidal thoughts / actions / plans
These feelings can vary in their intensity, but signs of depression and mental distress should never be taken lightly. The tricky part about depression seen in young men is that it’s often gradual. It may take time to see behaviors that are alarming, but if they exist, it’s best to spot them early. If a teen feels isolated, sad, even unreachable, it’s time to log off and seek help.
Are you having trouble connecting? In your life outside of the social media, are you having trouble connecting mentally and emotionally with those around you? It might be a lot to assume that a teen, or a parent will leave every social media platform for a prolonged period of time, but it’s healthy to step away from your screen and “talk a walk” so to speak. Consider these tips:
- Turn off your notifications for a few hours each day
- Delete apps that contribute to unhealthy body images, or feelings of inadequacy
- Take the “day off” from social media
- Get outside. Go for a walk in the park, the woods, or just around your neighborhood. Light exercise can be a form of meditation.
Talk about it. Young men shouldn’t feel burdened and alone in their distress, and they should feel safe to talk about it. Parents play a critical role in helping their teens who still live at home through the process of finding and keeping balance in their social lives. Try and make it a habit that any time together as a family should be a “phone free” time. It may be difficult to convince someone to not use their phone for a period of time, but remind them of the importance of detaching themselves from their devices.
As a young adult, ask yourself why you’re on social media platforms. What does it provide for you? How much time do you spend on them? Be honest with yourself as to whether or not it brings you fulfillment. If it doesn’t, find the thing that does.