Negative Health Impacts of Extensive Social Media Use (Essay)

Hey guys,

This is my final copy of the essay on extensive use of social media and whether it has a positive or negative impact on the health of young people.



Negative Health Impacts of Extensive Social Media Use

Pew Research (2013) noted that as of this year, approximately 72% of online young adults use social media sites extensively on daily basis. The use of social media can be a great tool, it helps individuals source information and communicate with their friends, however, can imply possible negative health impacts. The term “social media” refers to online material produced by the public, distinct from content produced by professional writers, journalists or generated by the industrial or mass media (Bozarth 2010, p. 12). Examples of social technologies used to create social media include those for communication (such as blogs – wordpress or blogger), communities (such as Facebook or Twitter), and multimedia (such as YouTube, Tumblr or Instagram). The extensive use of social media is growing amongst young adults and they are considering it as a vital part of their life. However, they don’t realise that it has fewer positive health effects, rather, it negatively and detrimentally affects them psychologically, sexually and physically, which are the health impacts examined in this essay.

Social media can be a great source of education for young adults, but as Atwal (2011) states, daily overuse of various forms of social media and technology has a negative effect on the health of all children, preteens and teenagers (young adults), making them more prone to the most common psychological disorders. As of benefits, social media aids introverted young adults by allowing them to express themselves better and by being more interactive and outgoing. In juxtaposition, more importantly, reports suggests that extensive social media usage may uniquely be associated with deflects in basic cognitive processes such as the ability to successfully filter out irrelevant information and ignore distraction (Becker, Alzahabi & Hopwood 2013). Additionally, this type of poor attentional control has been suggested to maintain and conceivably provoke one of the most common mental illnesses, depression.

As Ellicott (2013) reported in her article, more than a third of young people felt depressed as a result of something written or posted on a social media site, according to a wide-ranging survey. And as of recent studies, analogously, it is suggested that addictive use of the Internet is detrimental to depression (Lam, 2010). Gerrig et al. (2009) articulates that depressed people tend to view themselves as inadequate or defective in some way, to interpret ongoing experiences in a negative way, and to believe that the future will continue to bring suffering and difficulties. This pattern of negative thinking produces characteristic signs of depression as it deflects basic cognitive processes caused by extensive distracted social media usage. This significantly exemplifies that the influence of young adults’ psychological health from extensive social networking compensates negative health impacts over positives. The identified psychological health impacts could also be harmful to the sexual health of an individual.

In the absence of effective sex education by parents or in schools, social media have arguably become the leading sex educator and the dilemma of ‘sexting’ in today’s society (Strasburger, Jordan & Donnerstein 2012). The term, sexting, refers to sending, receiving, or following sexually explicit messages or pictures over mobile phones, computers, or other digital devices transmitted by social media (Moreno & Kolb 2012). Given how suggestive mainstream social media content is, there is considerable research that sexual content from sexting contribute not only to young adults’ attitudes and beliefs about sex, but to their sexual behaviour as well, especially to early intercourse (Strasburger, Jordan & Donnerstein 2012). The prevalence of sexting is soaring, where Strasburger, Jordan and Donnerstein (2012) found that 45% of young adults engaged in sending or receiving nude photos of themselves or sexual partners back in 2009. With high numbers of young adults’ attitudes and beliefs being influenced by engagement of sexual behaviours so early, increased poorer sexual health wellbeing of many individuals will soar analogously as well.

The extensive use of social media or sexting will most likely affect young adults negatively, as it will increase the chances of individuals suffering; emotional distress (emotional or mental instabilities caused by harmful (sexual) behaviours), unplanned pregnancy and increase high chances of individuals infecting sexual transmitted disease (STD) which may possibly lead to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. With possibly more negative health effects compared to positive, however, young people also stated that sexual health information that is serious, i.e. didactic and risk-focused is unlikely to have traction in social media spaces (Bryon, Albury & Evers 2013). It definitely has the ability to reach large masses of people and promote practises and services that are available for sexual health support. But despite these positive heath impacts, it is unarguably proven that there are fewer positive benefits in contrast to negative sexual health impacts. This continuance of negative and positive health effects disparity also correlates to the physical health wellbeing of an individual over-using social media.

Lengthily engagement of new technological advances can dramatically influence individuals’ motivation in physical activity and to weight gain. Spending all the time online socialising and browsing has replaced the time spent engaging in face-to-face communication which involves less inclined to go outdoors just for exercise. Analysis from recent studies confirm almost one-third of the nation spend atleast 3 hours a day or more on social media sites (Strasburger, Jordan & Donnerstein 2012). These findings articulate that young adults are not engaging in enough physical activity (i.e. exercise), which may lead to possible negative health outcomes such as obesity and risky behaviours such as eating disorders due to body dissatisfaction (Christakis & Fowler 2007).

Obesity denotes an unambiguous threat to the health and wellbeing of young adults. Considerable research is now finding that extensive exposure to social media sites plays an important role in the etiology of obesity (Strasburger, Jordan & Donnerstein 2012). To the extent that obesity is a product of voluntary choices of behaviours, people are embedded in social networks and are influenced by the evident appearance and behaviours of those around them suggests that weight gain in one person might influence weight gain in others (Christakis & Fowler 2007). Additionally, such influential social devices, it is possible that physiological simulation might occur; areas of the brain that correspond to actions such as eating food may be simulated if these actions are observed in others. Although heavy social media use is implicated in obesity, relatively promotional fitness membership programs on Facebook and other social media sites have created opportunities for young adults to join the gym or participate in free fitness classes.

Despite some positive health impacts, parallel to the topic, social media also encounters a crucial role in the formation of young people’s body self-image; may be responsible for creating unrealistic expectations, body dissatisfaction; and may even contribute to the development of eating disorders (Strasburger, Jordan & Donnerstein 2012). For young adults, predominantly females, fashion and beauty images on many social media websites are particularly adept at displaying role models with impossibly thin bodies. Strasburger, Jordan and Donnerstein (2012) found that there are now more than 100 pro-anorexia web sites (pro-ana sites) that not only encourage disordered eating but offer specific advice on purging, severely restricting caloric intake, and exercising excessively. Young adults, who are expose to these social media platforms extensively, will most likely double the risk of developing an eating disorder, which can become extremely detrimental and physically, sexually and psychologically distressing.

As evident throughout the essay, research studies have revealed that social media can play an influential tool to young adults and have profound impact on their psychological, sexual and physical health wellbeing. As of benefits to positive health impacts, social media most definitely helps introverted young adults to overcome their shyness, as additionally, it also implicates opportunities to services and supports in improving physical and sexual health wellbeing of individuals. Given the sheer amount of time that young adults spend on social media (atleast 3 hours on daily basis), ones’ sexual, mental and physical attitudes and beliefs are easily influenced and manipulated, detrimentally affecting their health wellbeing. Due to extensive social media usage and the engagement of risky health behaviours, young adults are possibly prone to have negative health impacts such as depression, sexual transmitted disease or even obesity. To date, minimal effort has been made by health care, parents, schools or even the Government to protect young adults from harmful social media effects and to maximise the influentially prosocial aspects of modern media. Implications of this subject matter include, more research should be conducted on this growing detrimental phenomenon, but enough data exist to warrant both concern and increased action of this matter.


Reference List

Atwal, A 2011, ‘Social-Media Use Can Lead to Mental Health Problems’, Youth Today, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 1-3, viewed 15 September 2013, via Proquest database.

Bozarth, J 2010, Social Media For Trainers: Techniques for Enhancing and Extending Learning, John Wiley and Sons, San Francisco.

Becker, W M, Alzahabi, R & Hopwood, J C 2013, ‘Media Multitasking Is Associated with Symptoms of Depression and Social Anxiety’, Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 132-135, viewed 15 September 2013, via Libert database, DOI 10.1089/cyber.2012.0291.

Bryan, P, Albury, K & Evers, C 2013, ‘“It would be weird to have that on Facebook”: young people’s use of social media and the risk of sharing sexual health information’, Reproductive Health Matters, vol. 21, no. 41, pp. 35-44, viewed 15 September 2013, via Science Direct database.

Christakis, A N & Fowler, H J 2007, ‘The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 Years’, The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 371, no. 1, pp. 370-379, viewed 15 September 2013, via NEJM Group database, DOI 10.1056/NEJMsa066082

Ellicott, C 2013, Bullying rife teens online young people felt depressed social media attacks, viewed 15 September 2013, <>.

Gerrig, J R, Zimbardo, G P, Campbell, A, Cumming, S & Wilkes, J F 2009, Psychology and Life, Pearson Education Australia, New South Wales.

Lam, T L 2010, ‘Effect of Pathological Use of the Internet on Adolescent Mental Health’, Arch Pediatric Adolescent Medical, vol. 164, no. 10, pp. 901-906, viewed 15 September 2013, JAMA Pediatrics database, DOI 10.1001/archpediatrics.2010.159.x.

Moreno, A M & Kolb, J 2012, ‘Social Networking Sites and Adolescent Health’, Medline Journals, vol. 59, no. 3, pp. 601-612, viewed 15 September 2013, via MD Consult database.

Pew Research 2013, Social Networking Use, viewed 15 September 2013, <;.

Strasburger, C V, Jordan, B A & Donnerstein, E 2012, ‘Children, Adolescents and the Media: Health Effects’, Medline Journals, vol. 59, no. 3, pp. 533-587, viewed 15 September 2013, via MD Consultant database.


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