Minding Your Mental Health

Social media can have serious impact on people’s mental health and happiness

Martin Mongan

Reporter:

Martin Mongan

Social media can have serious impact on people’s mental health and happiness

AS the number of social media users increases year-on- year, so does the anxiety around posting content.
According to NapoleonCat.com, there are over 2.1 million Irish Instagram accounts, which equates to 42% of the population, with 18 to 24 year olds making up over 25% of the Irish userbase.
The popularity of social media sites has encouraged brands and companies to sponsor celebrities and ‘influencers’ to promote their product to their followers. If you login to Instagram you’ll be engulfed in advertisements for beauty products, skinny teas and teeth whitening strips within two minutes of scrolling.
Instagram has morphed how impressionable young people see themselves.
Melanie McKnight from St Mary’s Park in King's Island, Limerick city studies Sports and Exercise Science at UL. Melanie is one of the 2.1m Irish Instagram users and has felt self-conscious about her looks due to the airbrushed beauty standards of Instagram.
“I think you’d be lying to yourself if you say you don’t ever compare yourself to other people. Even as somebody who 'knows better', I still catch myself doing it. It’s something that you have to work on over time and it’s definitely something that doesn’t come easy,” Melanie explained.
“We all have particularly difficult days when loving yourself can be that bit harder and maybe that’s when you’re more susceptible to comparing yourself to other people. I think it’s important to remember that we’re all born different, we all have a different genetic make up and because of that - we have different bodies.
“I feel like because these influencers have such a large audience and are plastered everywhere on newsfeeds and video streaming platforms, it makes our journeys to confidence and love and happiness that bit more frustrating and somewhat confusing, especially for younger people,” Melanie continued.
In 2019, Instagram removed the ‘like’ counter to the general public, so only the user can see the exact amount of likes their post received. Melanie is relieved that the ‘like’ counters are now private.
“When I was younger, I’d obsessively check my phone for updates, practically willing them to pop up on my phone. I definitely would have deleted the photo because in my eyes, if it wasn’t good enough for other people - then it wasn’t good enough for me. I think it comes from one’s need to please people and the serotonin kick we receive when we think that people 'like us' by liking our posts,” she said.
Melanie pleads to people to, “be kind to yourself and don’t compare yourself to Instagram models. You’re definitely valued a whole lot more than the likes you get under your post and don’t believe every picture that you see online.”