When did you last take a selfie? Took another because it wasn’t great? Did you add a filter, another effect…? Did you post it online? And how many times did you check who ‘liked’ it? I should perhaps ask myself when was the last time that I went out for dinner and didn’t take a photo of my food…
We’ve all done it. Because taking the perfect image to share on social has in itself become a bit of an art form. With endless apps and options we’ve all become photo editors. But why? Is it that we are lonely, ‘showing off’, trying to portray the perfect life or to engage with a new community… Why are we creating unrealistic images and lives? Is it just a bit of fun or seriously impacting our health and wellbeing?
Last month, The Royal Society for Public Health asked more than 1,500 12-24 year olds how social media platforms made them feel, asking them to consider anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and body image.
Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the RSPH, said: “It is interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and well-being – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.
“Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, and is now so entrenched in the lives of young people that it is no longer possible to ignore it when talking about young people’s mental health issues.”
YouTube, however, faired quite well in the study, scoring top marks amongst young people for creating positivity. Perhaps due to the site’s more relatable role models taking to the site to vlog, share experiences or maybe it’s just the endless funny cat videos..!
Now we’ve all taken (and shared) a fair few selfies, or unrealistic and heavily edited shots in our time. I tend to add my own ‘reality filter’ when it comes to my social accounts, and I’m sure others do the same… Are we really destroying our own self esteem through too much social envy?
Amy Orben, College Lecturer in psychology at the University of Oxford told The Guardian: “You cannot truly measure the mental health impact of a social media platform by adding together people’s answers to single questions about how specific sites give them “FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)” or affect their “self-identity” or “sleep”. Instead, to show mental health impact you need long-term studies that measure mental health with tried-and-tested measures or which examine real-life health outcomes like incidences of diagnosed depression.”
It will be interesting to see how the report’s recommendations may be rolled out in the future:
- Introduction of a pop-up heavy usage warning on social media – seven in 10 (71%) young people surveyed by RSPH support this recommendation
- Social media platforms to identify users who could be suffering from mental health problems by their posts, and discretely signpost to support – four in five (80%) young people support
- Social media platforms to highlight when photos of people have been digitally manipulated – more than two-thirds (68%) of young people support
It wasn’t long before Snapchat hit the headlines again with an update to its popular image sharing app functionality. The ‘Snap Map’ now lets users locate their friends on a map that is accurate enough to determine where people live. What could possibly go wrong? Police are now recommending that users switch to ‘ghost mode’ to avoid sharing their location, images and videos. Yes, we all like to snap with imposed dog ears, but let’s leave it there.
With some already falling foul of the service, it’s probably time to update your privacy settings – here’s how, you can thank us later!
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