How does isolation from social networks affect adolescents?

A "like" click on Facebook, a short tweet on Twitter or a selfie on Snapchat: young people can hardly imagine their everyday life without social networks, four out of five young people use the Internet every day, according to the latest JIM study. You spend almost three hours online - time that is dominated by Facebook, Instagram and Co.

But what effects does this behavior have on the health of the adolescents? Are Social Networks Really A Mental Health Risk?

New study: Intensive use leads to mental health problems in 12 to 17 year olds.

There are only a few studies that deal with the relationship between the use of social networks and health problems. But now a new study by the health agency "Ottawa Public Health" warns against too frequent social media use. The data from 750 students in grades seven to twelve (12-17 years) who answered questions about their social media habits as well as their mental health and well-being were evaluated.

The results of the research carried out in 2014: If used for more than two hours a day, it can lead to severe mental disorders, depression and suicidal thoughts. Around 25 percent of all students said they spend at least two hours a day on social platforms. Heavy users in particular reported worse psychological states than few users. Anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide and unmet psychological needs were named disproportionately during the study. Young people with unstable personalities in particular use social networks to feel better.

Use of Facebook for fear of social isolation

However, the study by Ottawa Public Health was not checked for causal relationships: a connection between the exclusive use of social networks and the specified types of mental disorders was therefore not investigated.
Rather, the study confirms a fact that has long been accepted: The media use of Facebook, Instagram and Co. serves as a significant amplifier for young people with mental health problems, as well as for the group of media users who feel incomplete without their social media account. Young people with personal weaknesses in particular consciously choose social networks for fear of not being alone and isolated. Unfulfilled needs should be satisfied in the virtual world.

Increase well-being or expose yourself to danger?

As early as 2012, an American study examined the psychological effects of social networks. Researchers at the American Academy of Pediatrics then described what is known as "Facebook depression" - as a result, adolescents who spend a lot of time on social networks show symptoms of depression. The main reasons for this are attribution errors: Everyone tends to explain a person's character on the basis of their behavior. A Facebook friend publishes a photo from their vacation - human perception automatically interprets: This person must be happy. The life of Facebook friends is considered to be happier. But it is often a fallacy, as we like to show ourselves to be advantageous on social networks.

A study by Michigan State University found that the use of social networks does not always lead to depressive symptoms: so-called "networking" has an effect on people's everyday lives - social involvement and involvement even make people happy. Young people in particular use social media to keep in touch with their friends. Not social isolation, but particularly good social integration are the result of increased internet use.

Criticism of social media studies

But what is it about social media studies? In particular, the difference between reciprocity and causality is often confused here. If two observations change in a similar way, this does not mean that the cause is the same. If the intensive use of social networks leads to depression, it can also be caused by internet addiction. The researchers should look for causes much more in the actual social environment of the young people.
While Facebook was considered the most important social network a few years ago, services such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter are now in the foreground. The desire for confirmation by other users and the constant hunt for "likes" are represented in all portals. This communication by means of media codes cannot be applied or transferred to the real world. They even damage the self-esteem of young adults in some cases.
In the case of social networks, it is generally the case that the opportunity to improve the quality of life is offset by corresponding risks. Adolescents can avoid these risks, especially through careful behavior and a certain degree of internet competence. Psychologically, it makes more sense to look for the real causes that lead to self-damaging use of the Internet.
If you look at previous social media studies, it is noticeable that some of these studies lack representativeness. The selected samples and the study design are not optimally chosen. Of course, a connection between social network portals and the occurrence of psychological problems is not easy to explain, it is complex and this relationship needs to be investigated further.