This article explores the potentially negative psychological effects social media photo-sharing platforms have on America’s adolescents. While most studies on mental health effects related to social media use have focused on Facebook and the young adult age group 18-35, this article focuses on users under the age of 18 with an emphasis on Instagram and Snapchat – the two most rapidly growing social networking sites for adolescents. Photo-sharing sites have characteristics different than other social media sites, specifically the ability to alter photos and to communicate live time through videos and photos, which may have different mental health consequences on younger populations. Through a review of previous academic research, and a survey administered to a sample population under the age of 18, this article analyzes how social comparisons, a need for external validation, and a fear of missing out and exclusion may affect adolescents more than older adults due to the fact that they are in a critical developmental period where self-esteem and self-worth can be particularly influenced by peers and social media. While some argue that social media, including photo-sharing sites, may allow adolescents more social contact, opportunities for self-esteem building, and a chance for those who are shy or with low self-esteem to experiment in a safer environment than face to face contact, this article shows that the opposite is also true: that excessive use of photo-sharing sites may lead to negative mental health consequences due to social comparisons, a fear of missing out, and an unhealthy desire to attain external validation from peers. The article also suggests that adolescents with deceptive personalities, Machiavellian personalities, and high social desirability needs may be more vulnerable to some of the risks of social media use, and that identifying at-risk individuals may allow teachers, counselors, and parents to help them navigate their social media world during an influential time in their lives.
Magner, Melissa, "Social Media’s Effect on Mental Health: How America’s Youth are More Vulnerable to its Negative Implications" (2018). Pop Culture Intersections. 20.