What is the impact of social media on student mental health and well-being?

a group of people standing around each other and understanding the impact of social media

Social media apps have integrated into an essential part of our daily lives in today’s digital world. Whether it is for socialising or gathering the latest news, people rely on such apps to make their lives more exciting and easier. Social community apps, in particular, have gained immense popularity in recent years. These apps offer a platform for students with shared interests, goals, and hobbies to connect and interact with each other even outside their schools. 

The pressure to constantly present a curated and perfect image online and addiction to social media can negatively affect a student’s mental health. In this context, understanding the complex interplay between social media and mental health is crucial for promoting positive habits and well-being among students.

The increasing rise of social media

The rise of social media has been nothing short of spectacular. In the early days of the Internet, people used email and instant messaging to communicate with each other. However, technology and the creation of social media platforms means how people communicate and connect, across the globe in seconds has changed forever. Today, people can connect globally, share their thoughts, ideas, and experiences, and build communities around shared interests. You can be speaking with a family member in any part of the world, as long as you’re connected through apps, and an internet connection, instantly.

With about 2-3 generations being born with instant exposure to social media, their comfort with the mediums from an early age is also a subject of concern. Social media is deeply enmeshed in students’ lives, providing them with a platform for communication, networking, and self-expression. Kids are almost raised from infancy, knowing how the camera operates, or how various apps work on the phone. Often the phone also becomes a device for entertaining kids, and as such, they are accustomed to using devices to entertain themselves. 

As social media apps continue to evolve and shape how we communicate, it is essential to consider their potential risks and benefits and take proactive steps to promote healthy habits and digital literacy among students.

What is the impact of social media on a student’s academic performance? 

Students are constantly worried about their results instead of focusing on how distractions have gotten their attention at every step they think of moving toward their goal. For students studying in schools the average screen time should be around 2-3 hours per day, more screen time will eventually lead to fatigue and irritability which is harmful to their next day’s performance. The continuous urge to open mobile phones frequently has decreased students’ abilities to think beyond the boxes of their imagination, eventually resulting in a narrow approach to life’s tests.

By being constantly distracted,  social media affects a student’s ability to stay focused on a task or concentrate on topics. As a result, it impacts their productivity and academic results. Studies have shown that spending too much time on social media can lead to procrastination, distraction, and poor time management. Along with disrupting sleep patterns and focus, a person can also become addicted to the idea of constantly scrolling, and being entertained, leading to decreased interest in day-to-day activities, and poor social engagement, too.

Social media consumption has become a significant source of distraction and impacts students’ productivity and mental health. Therefore, students must practise mindful social media usage, set timers to pause usage and prioritise their academic and personal goals over social media usage.

What are the tips for maintaining a healthy relationship with social media?

Although social media is a great way to connect with friends and stay informed, it’s also very important to maintain a healthy relationship while using it in our daily lives. Remember to prioritise your mental health and focus on in-person connections with friends, and your loved ones. Many scientifically proven tips are mentioned below to avoid getting caught up in unhealthy cycles of usage, and its side effects. :

1. Set time limits for social media usage- Make it a point to allocate a specific amount of time each day for social media. Try using apps that track your social media usage with a timer to remind yourself to log off before overtime. This strategy allows one to stay focused, and set up reminders to quit using an app and take control of your time, by not getting carried away with one post after another. 

2. Unfollow people with a negative mindset- Social media these days are filled with toxicity. By unfollowing such accounts, it’s easier to curate our feeds in a way that aligns with their values and uplifts their mood. Surrounding ourselves with positivity can improve not only our mindset, but also our daily mood, and outlook towards life. There is a thing such as toxic positivity, which asks you to avoid dealing with things and only focus on the bright side. That too can come with its downsides of not addressing core issues and instead brushing them aside. 

Accounts, or negative people often tend to only focus on the negatives of a situation, and invariably find flaws with the situation around them, instead of looking at their role, too. Ask yourself if you’re following the person to keep up with them and if seeing their content makes you feel good, or bad. Let that help decide whether you should follow them.

3. Follow uplifting pages- Whether it’s a daily dose of motivational quotes or inspiring stories, following uplifting pages can be a powerful way to cultivate a positive mindset. Pages or accounts that discuss personal growth, self-care, and mindfulness can also provide helpful tips and resources to maintain calm and improve mental well-being. 

4. Practise mindfulness- Being mindful means being present and aware of your thoughts and emotions without any judgments. This is an undervalued skill that everyone must possess to have better control over their emotions and avoid clouding their understanding of a situation.

Students should incorporate mindfulness into their social media consumption and hence cultivate a more positive relationship with technology. An example of this might be: looking at a piece of content, and asking yourself how it makes you feel. Let that feeling guide your consumption and curation instead of mindlessly following people and accounts. 

5. Don’t engage with negative comments- Engaging with negativity can lead to stress, anger, and frustration, which can ultimately harm your well-being. Often, engaging or paying attention to negative comments, or messages can also make you question your worth. Instead, focus on positive interactions and discussions and avoid feeding into negativity. If someone is persistently sending you negative messages, use the tools of the platform to report them, or block them when needed. Always remember, you are not required to entertain someone’s comments about you.  

What is the positive side of a social media detox?

Social media detox refers to taking a break from social media platforms, typically ranging from a few days to several weeks. The goal of this disconnect is to first minimise the dependency on the dopamine hits from social media. Second, by following a dopamine fast, it allows us to become more aware of what’s happening in the environment around us, and experience life in real-time. With current moment awareness comes deep appreciation and gratitude, which finally leads to reduced feelings of anxiety, stress, and social comparison. 

This practice is often recommended for students suffering from mental and emotional weakness and is advised to give up their social media for several days. 

A great outcome of following a social media detox is improving one’s power to pay attention and focus. This focus in turn helps them quickly learn subjects, improve their time management, and increase one’s productivity overall. This technique also provides an opportunity for us to engage in other activities that promote physical and mental well-being, such as exercise, reading, and spending time with friends and family.

How to balance the pros and cons of social media for student mental health?

As we understand now, social media is a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, social media allows students to connect with others, share their thoughts and experiences, and receive support from like-minded individuals. It also provides a platform for networking and building relationships that can benefit their future careers.

On the other hand, it can also negatively affect mental health, including addiction, cyberbullying, and the pressure to constantly compare oneself to others. To balance the pros and cons of social media use, students need to be mindful of their online behaviour and prioritise their mental health through self-care and seek help when needed.

Balancing the pros and cons of social media for student mental health requires a multi-faceted approach. DPS Warangal promotes a healthy relationship with social media by emphasising the importance of digital well-being. They educate students about responsible social media use, fostering self-awareness and self-regulation. Encouraging regular breaks from screens, promoting face-to-face interactions, and organising mindfulness activities help students maintain a balance between the online and offline worlds. By creating awareness and providing support, DPS Warangal prioritises student mental health in the digital age.