IT is not just high schoolers who experience anxiety, depression and bullying when using social media. University students do too, says a University of Notre Dame researcher.
Focusing specifically on social media platform Instagram, PhD researcher and tutor Carmen Papaluca brought together more than 50 university students aged between 18 and 25 in a series of focus groups and found many of them reacted negatively to images they saw on the site.
Their feelings included anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and poor self esteem.
The study presented participants with a range of fitness, beauty, nutrition, health, travel and work images and found that reactions differed depending on age.
“Students in their late teens and early 20s were drawn to the images of fitness and beauty but rather than positive reactions, the images generated feelings of inadequacy and negative self-perception,” Ms Papaluca said.
“However, students in their mid-20s were far more focused on work and lifestyle.
“They felt their lives lacked meaning in comparison to others in the same age group who had posted ‘selfies’ working abroad, travelling to exotic destinations or showing off their enviable social lives.”
Ms Papaluca said while she was surprised by some of the findings, she believed both the social media site and the user had roles to play in improving the situation.
“Instagram has a responsibility to minimise any potential harm incurred by its users – this involves banning particular hashtags like #thinspiration and providing links to seek help if individuals are experiencing any form of mental health issues,” she said.
“Participants within my focus groups stated feeling reassured that others their age were feeling the same way as them and felt positive after having an open and honest discussion about these feelings.”