How TikTok is Influencing Mental Health
Ruby Media Group CEO Kris Ruby recently joined NewsNation to discuss a recent study that revealed that cutting back on social media usage can have positive mental health benefits.
NEWSNATION | How social media is affecting teens’ mental health | Morning in America
According to the Pew Research Center, 69% of adults and 81% of teens in the U.S. use social media.
A recent study showed over 50% of Gen Z report feeling lonely once or twice a month, compared to 25% of baby boomers.
One viewer wanted to know: how much of an impact does social media have on mental health?
Social media expert Kris Ruby discusses the various harms that social media apps like TikTok and Instagram present to teens.
“Asking people to take a 1-week break from social media can lead to significant improvements in well-being, depression, and anxiety.”
“Limiting social media usage to just 10 minutes per platform per day for 3 weeks led to a clinically significant reduction in depression.
“Reducing time spent on different social media sites may differentially mediate mental health outcomes.”
Our findings also address important gaps in the literature by exploring how different social media sites may be impacting different aspects of mental health. These differences align with the transdiagnostic cognitive-behavioral conceptualization of social media.
Particularly, the notion that different platforms drive differential psychological outcomes based on differences in their features and affordances. For example, our results indicated that reducing time spent on Twitter and TikTok may mediate the effect abstaining has on reductions in symptoms of depression, whereas only TikTok mediates reductions in anxiety.”
📖 THE RESEARCH STUDY: Taking a One-Week Break from Social Media Improves Well-Being, Depression, and Anxiety: A Randomized Controlled Trial
Week Off Social Media Boosts Mental Health: Study
Taking a One-Week Break from Social Media Improves Well-Being, Depression, and Anxiety
New study reveals that cutting back social media usage can have positive mental health benefits.
Limiting undergraduates’ social media usage to just 10 minutes per platform per day for 3 weeks led to a clinically significant reduction in depression.
“We also found that reducing time spent on different social media sites may differentially mediate mental health outcomes.”
Our findings also address important gaps in the literature by exploring how different social media sites may be impacting different aspects of mental health. These differences align with the transdiagnostic cognitive-behavioral conceptualization of social media. Particularly, the notion that different platforms drive differential psychological outcomes based on differences in their features and affordances. For example, our results indicated that reducing time spent on Twitter and TikTok may mediate the effect abstaining has on reductions in symptoms of depression, whereas only TikTok mediates reductions in anxiety. This could be an artifact of “doomscrolling” a term used to describe the phenomenon of the negative effect people can experience after viewing pandemic-related media.
The present study shows that asking people to take a 1-week break from social media can lead to significant improvements in well-being, depression, and anxiety.
How does social media impact teens mental health?
Teens and adults alike have chased social media likes as a status symbol for years. But is the rush for dopamine leading to long-term mental health issues?
Social media bullying and cyber harassment can lead to real-world consequences and charges. For example, there were homicide charges placed against an individual for encouraging another person to take their own life. If you bully someone to the point of committing suicide, you can go to prison. Additionally, in a recent Buffalo school shooting, the murderer live-streamed it for shock effect and also used Discord to post his manifesto and plans months in advance.
In addition to the countless innocent lives lost by these mass murderers in school shootings, one must also consider the impact of this content on the people in these Discord communities who are exposed to murder plans for months before a murder occurs. This type of content can lead to long-term PTSD. We have seen Facebook and TikTok content moderators file lawsuits over exposure to harmful content, but we have not yet seen these cases for individual users within the communities of the perpetrators doing this (ie. Buffalo mass shooter).
Twitch, Discord, And Other Social Media Companies Investigated For Role In Buffalo Shooting
In the wake of the Buffalo shooting, the role of social media platforms in disseminating videos of live mass shootings and platform moderation policies have been questioned. New York Attorney General Letitia James recently launched an investigation into the social media platforms used by the Buffalo shooter to plan, promote and stream his attack. Social media platforms including 4chan, 8chan, Discord, and others will be investigated for the role they played in the amplification of the attack.
How does social media affect mental illness?
Social media can often exacerbate mental illness. In some regards, it can be helpful for those who suffer with mental illness to have a community with like-minded peers for support. However, it can also be used as a weapon to cause further harm to others by those who have mental illness. I am a longtime advocate of mental illness support, awareness, and treatment. That being said, if you have a known mental illness and you outright refuse to take medication or do proper treatment with a licensed professional, that can cause significant harm to others who interact with you, and has long term effects on those around you.
Social media can have a negative impact on teens who suffer from or are susceptible to mental illness.
TikTok and Social Media: Teens influenced by mental health influencers
Psychological effects of social media on youth
TikTok usage among teens can drive negative psychological outcomes.
California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a nationwide investigation into TikTok and its effect on young users’ mental health.
Social media companies are under investigation for contributing to a national mental health crisis.
Sacramento is currently weighing how far the state should go in regulating big tech companies.
“Our children are growing up in the age of social media – and many feel like they need to measure up to the filtered versions of reality that they see on their screens,” said Attorney General Bonta.
“We know this takes a devastating toll on children’s mental health and well-being. But we don’t know what social media companies knew about these harms and when. Our nationwide investigation will allow us to get much-needed answers and determine if TikTok is violating the law in promoting its platform to young Californians.”
The investigation will look into the harm TikTok can cause to young users and what TikTok knew about those harms.
“Cyberbullying can destroy a young life. It takes the worst of youthful cruelty and puts it on that most public of forums – the Internet. Too many American young people keep quiet about online abuse and too many kill themselves over it,” said Bonita.
What are the potential psychiatric effects of social media usage?
TikTok’s algorithms can create a problem for teens by leading them to self-diagnose based on their social graph. This can lead teens to create an identity around mental illness while they are still in the development phase, or to perpetuate more extreme forms of mental illness that they may not have. For example, psychiatrists on TikTok that are shown to teens over and over again can lead teens to self-diagnose that they have a psychiatric illness- despite the teen never having been diagnosed by a medical professional. Social media has a tremendous impact on teens, during a critical time when they are still forming their identities.
TikTok is a breeding ground for mental health influencers and consuming mental health content. According to a recent article, “On TikTok alone, the hashtag #BPD (borderline personality disorder) has 3.7 billion views, #bipolar 2 billion, and #DID (dissociative identity disorder) another 1.5 billion.
Recently, psychologists have noticed a wave of adolescent girls also claiming to suffer from Tourette’s Syndrome and rare mental health conditions, such as borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia — conditions not typically seen in the teen demographic.”
Why is this problematic? These are serious, life-altering personality disorders that often require diagnosis by multiple medical professionals. They are also typically diagnosed later on in life. With so many teens self-diagnosing on TikTok, this can create a serious issue for teens later on. Additionally, what they self-diagnose as now may not be accurate. They are attaching themselves to a diagnosis they may altogether want to disattach themselves from later on into their career. The Tiktok algorithm is perpetuating this by repeatedly showing teens content that leads them to self-identify. This creates a difficult situation for parents of teens who are looking for a second opinion. TikTok is not a doctor.
Social media is still largely an uncontrolled experiment. What could go wrong? Plenty.
READ: The deinfluencer movement on TikTok is a response to the harmful effects of social media influencers on young people’s mental health and consumer behavior.
How does social media destroy self-esteem?
For years, Internet health advocates have pushed Facebook to stop prioritizing Like counts, arguing that the metrics have a negative impact on people’s self-esteem. “We know that teens seek validation via the Like button. We know that it can negatively affect kids’ and teenagers’ self-esteem.”
Instagram has recently taken steps to combat this, by hiding like counts and commission studies. Using online measurements to incentivize people’s behavior can lead to addictive, real-world consequences, especially for teens who are still developing their core identity.
Social media platforms do not destroy self-esteem; the people you engage with on the platforms can. That being said, numerous research studies have been published stating the addictive quality and nature of social media platforms. The addiction to checking platforms multiple times per day to see what friends are posting can lead to self-worth issues. It is very important to be careful who you let into your inner circle as a result of your social media engagement. If someone doesn’t make you feel good, pay attention to that. It is important to do self-esteem-building activities.
Social media can serve as a mechanism to share positive work out into the world, but if you are using the channels to share gossip, hate, toxicity or negativity, you are most likely leading to the destruction of others’ self-esteem. Build someone up instead of putting them down. People who put others down do this because they don’t feel great about their own self-esteem. They use social media to regulate their self-esteem at the expense of others. This is called cyberbullying.
Avoid getting caught in the crosshairs of this on social media by engaging with people who do not do this type of online behavior. If you notice someone writing sensational posts about others, they will most likely write the same type of content about you. If you use other people’s stories to try to build a following, you are robbing them of a chance to tell their own story. That type of destructive behavior leads to the destruction of self-esteem over time. The way in which people utilize the platforms leads to loss of confidence if you are engaging with someone that is a cyberbully. This is mentally draining.
In a world where there are thousands of stories to tell, focus on telling your own, and not someone else’s. The best way to tell if a user you engage with on social media will be harmful to your self-esteem is to notice if they respect boundaries. If they do not respect your privacy, confidentiality or boundaries about things pertaining to your own life, this will wreak havoc on your self-esteem and mental health.
Unfortunately, people on social media wait too long to cut these ties because they want likes, follows, or clicks. Do not ignore the warning signs of toxic social media behavior. The truth is, it is the people you encounter on the platforms that destroy your self-esteem.
The solution is less about platform regulation and more about education on how to handle cyberbullying and domestic digital violence. Part two of this equation is that the social media companies need to be trained on this- but part 1 starts with education at the consumer level to help people understand the signs to look out for.
The media focuses on blaming every issue that happens on social media on big tech; but these issues fundamentally trace back to flawed societal issues, lack of parenting, attachment issues, lack of accountability/ responsibility, and an overall increase in incivility. Social media platforms can’t change that, but parents can.
Keep the lines of communication open with your teenager and have discussions about this, especially if they are experiencing cyberbullying in high school or college. Unfortunately, the field of psychiatry is now plagued with medical professionals who place social media stardom over their oath to practice medicine in an ethical fashion. Some of these doctors will make false medical diagnosis about people they have never even met or treated.
After further review, you can see that these same doctors have open litigation against them for a patient that committed suicide as a result of their malpractice. There is a difference between using social media to educate current and prospective patients and using social media to violate an oath of medicine that can put someone’s life in danger, and further erode self-esteem and bullying.
Does social media make us lonely?
Social media does not make us lonely, it exacerbates loneliness. An unhealthy dependence on checking what other people are doing online can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. This is particularly rampant among teenagers.
Is social media to blame for mental health issues?
Social media is not to blame for mental health issues, but it can directly exacerbate existing mental health issues.
Is social media a public health crisis?
Loneliness and depression are a public health crisis, and social media is the tool that teenagers use to self-medicate for this epidemic of depression. The societal breakdown is the crisis, and social media is a set of tools that further erodes that breakdown of civility.
Social Media Murder:
THE HARM OF SOCIAL MEDIA TO TEENS
What are the unintended consequences of technological transformation on the mental health of our youth?
- Dopamine release with “likes”
- Body image issues & glorification of eating disorders
- Depression and self-identification with mental health disorders that have not been medically diagnosed by a psychiatrist
There are other downsides to social media for teenagers such as:
- Impulsive posts can leave a permanent digital record which can impact future litigation. If this happens, this will have an impact on your teenager’s mental health.
- Social media harassment and cyberbullying
- Exposure to predators (content moderator lawsuit)
- Deceit from people hiding their true identity (catfishing)
- FOMO and anxiety from unrealistic expectations
- Personal security threats from phishing posts (Swatting)
How can social media affect mental health?
We already know that social media can negatively affect mental health of people without mental illness. But what impact does social media have on those who are pre-exposed to mental illness? And furthermore, what impact does it have on those who do not have mental illness but are led by algorithms and mental health influencers who encourage self-identification and self-diagnosis?
Dr. Jordan B. Peterson recently discussed the link between antisocial behavior, social media, and substantial reputational harm.
In the digital economy, nothing is more valuable than your reputation. An attack on your reputation is an attack on your livelihood.
Peterson states that the most valuable thing you possess is your reputation, which equals the currency of trust.
“People try to gain the reputation system. That’s what narcissists do and Machiavellianism and the dark triad. Narcissists have the confidence of the competent without the competence. They overclaim their contribution,” said Peterson. Their inflated digital confidence is a veneer for insecurity, bullying, and anger. The expression, what goes up must come down is applicable here. The only way for the bully to achieve levels of emotional regulation is to keep putting someone else down in order to raise their self-esteem to feel “up” at peak levels. This wreaks havoc on the victim’s nervous system on the receiving end of the attacks
“One way of elevating your reputation is to claim unearned moral virtue. A part of what motivates is an attempt to claim a reputational status without having to do any of the work to be a good person (productive/ generous/ stable / incremental voluntary gains).”
Peterson goes on to state that cancel culture is a “feminine style of antisocial behavior.” He discusses how boys fight in the yard whereas girls traditionally gossip about each other and fight with their words and writing to cause reputational harm. He states that the process of stealing the reputational gains of others is achieved through using a pattern of delegation and reputation enhancement, and is symbolic of deep psychiatric issues.
“Reputation sabotage and mean girls style behavior for self-elevation and derogation of the other” is how girls fight on the playground. He describes how this behavior has moved to social media platforms to cyberbully others by keeping them isolated, embarrassed, shamed, and humiliated.
Pathway of reputation= social media facilitates its distribution
“The incentive structures on social media platforms are wrong because the antisocial, psychopathic, narcissistic types who use reputation derogation in their communications and not punished.”
The solution? Harsher penalties for online trolling, harassment, abuse, defamation, libel, and slander that result in substantial mental health issues, reputational harm, and real-world business consequences.
How to Curb Unhealthy Social Media Behaviors
Cutting back social media usage can have positive mental health benefits. Not sure how to get started? Here are some tips to cut back:
- Set limits on scrolling and screen time
- Turn off notifications
- Set your account to private
NEW Study: Social Media and Mental Health
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KRIS RUBY is the CEO of Ruby Media Group, an award-winning public relations and media relations agency in Westchester County, New York. Kris Ruby has more than 15 years of experience in the Media industry. She is a sought-after media relations strategist, content creator and public relations consultant. Kris Ruby is also a national television commentator and political pundit and she has appeared on national TV programs over 200 times covering big tech bias, politics and social media. She is a trusted media source and frequent on-air commentator on social media, tech trends and crisis communications and frequently speaks on FOX News and other TV networks. She has been featured as a published author in OBSERVER, ADWEEK, and countless other industry publications. Her research on brand activism and cancel culture is widely distributed and referenced. She graduated from Boston University’s College of Communication with a major in public relations and is a founding member of The Young Entrepreneurs Council. She is also the host of The Kris Ruby Podcast Show, a show focusing on the politics of big tech and the social media industry. Kris is focused on PR for SEO and leveraging content marketing strategies to help clients get the most out of their media coverage.