There is no doubt that social media and its instant availability has changed the way we engage with the outside world. As the popularity and influence of sites such as Facebook continue to grow, few can argue that these are not among the most important tools for social contact in the modern world.
At any time of life, whatever we may experience, social media has become a platform to reach out to others going through the same thing. Pregnant women, for example, can reach out to other expectant mothers who are due to give birth around the same time as them, and track each others’ progress, problems and proud moments, providing support along the way.
However, there is a downside to this constant, carefully selected communication. High levels of Facebook use have been linked to increased depression, anxiety and poor life satisfaction, with those who use it a lot finding their mood decreases afterwards.
It’s very easy to see why this is the case: Facebook isn’t reality; it’s made up of usually carefully constructed highlights of people’s lives. Posts are all about the latest parties, purchases and happy relationships, and less about sitting home alone on a Friday night in your pyjamas. Even if deep down we realise Facebook is a false presentation of the world our peers live in, the risk of making negative self-comparisons is still high.
One of the biggest negative impacts of Facebook is the increase in body image dissatisfaction, as users compare themselves to the literally billions of perfect photos of celebrities and our peers available to us with just a few clicks. Some might argue that these photos have always been available through traditional media, but social sharing sites make them more accessible. More than ten million photographs are uploaded onto Facebook worldwide every hour, offering an immediate availability of new images that far surpasses that found in any magazine.