Social Media on Mental Health Issues

The Impact of Social Media on Psychological and Social Well-being

In the past decade, social media has become a part of daily life for billions around the world. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok give unprecedented connectivity and information sharing. However, alongside these benefits, there are significant psychological and social costs. This article explores how social media affects mental health, can create social isolation, promotes physical inactivity, perpetuates idealisation and creates compulsive use.

Social Media on Mental health issues


Mental health issues

The rise in social media use has correlated with increased rates of mental health issues, particularly among adolescents and young adults. Research indicates that excessive social media use is linked to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem (The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory, 2023). One key factor is the tendency for users to compare themselves to others. Social media platforms often showcase highlight reels of people’s lives, leading individuals to believe that their own lives are inadequate by comparison (Fardouly et al., 2015). This can create feelings of inferiority and inadequacy, contributing to depression and anxiety.

Social isolation

Ironically, while social media is designed to connect people, it can also lead to social isolation. A study by Primack et al. (2017) found that individuals who spent more time on social media were more likely to feel socially isolated than those who used it less. This paradox comes because virtual interactions can sometimes replace face-to-face connections, which are crucial for an individual’s well-being. The superficial nature of many online interactions can leave individuals feeling lonely and disconnected, despite having numerous online friends.

Physical inactivity

Another significant impact of social media is on physical health. The sedentary nature of social media use contributes to physical inactivity, which is linked to various health problems, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, and decreased mental well-being. Users may spend hours scrolling through feeds, watching videos, and engaging in other sedentary activities, which limits time spent on physical activities that are essential for overall health.

Idealisation and lack of authenticity

Social media perpetuates idealistic standards of beauty and success. Platforms like Instagram are filled with edited photos and content that present an idealised version of life. This lack of authenticity can be damaging, particularly for young users who may not realize the extent of the manipulation involved in these images. The constant exposure to these unattainable standards can lead to body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, and other mental health issues (Fardouly et al., 2015).

Compulsive use and algorithms

The design of social media platforms is intentionally generating compulsive use. Algorithms are designed to maximize user engagement by delivering personalized content that keeps users coming back for more. “The products and services we use habitually alter our everyday behaviour, just as their designers intended. Our actions have been engineered.” (Eyal, 2014, p. 1). Features like infinite scrolling, notifications, and likes are engineered to exploit psychological triggers, creating a loop that is hard to break. This can lead to compulsive use, with users feeling compelled to check their platforms constantly, even at the expense of other activities and responsibilities.

Permanent Propaganda and Consumerism

Lastly, social media is a powerful tool for marketing and propaganda. Users are constantly exposed to advertisements and sponsored content, which encourages perpetual consumerism. This can create a sense of inadequacy and a need to constantly acquire new products to keep up with trends (Andrejevic, 2004).


While social media has transformed in many positive ways how we communicate and interact, it is crucial to recognize and address its negative psychological and social impacts. Increased awareness and mindful usage of social media can help mitigate these effects. Encouraging authentic interactions, setting boundaries on usage, and promoting digital literacy can contribute to healthier social media habits. Additionally, more research is needed to understand fully the long-term implications of social media on mental health and society.


Andrejevic, M. (2004). Reality TV: The work of being watched. Rowman & Littlefield.

Eyal, N. (2014). Hooked: How to build habit-forming products. Penguin.

Fardouly, J., Diedrichs, P. C., Vartanian, L. R., & Halliwell, E. (2015). Social comparisons on social media: The impact of Facebook on young women’s body image concerns and mood. Body Image, 13, 38-45.

Primack, B. A., Shensa, A., Sidani, J. E., Whaite, E. O., Lin, L. Y., Rosen, D., … & Primack, B. (2017). Social media use and perceived social isolation among young adults in the US. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 53(1), 1-8.

The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory (2023) Social Media and Youth Mental Health.

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