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Understanding the Impact of Social Media on Mental Health

Social media has become an essential part of daily life. Several different platforms enable people to keep in touch with friends and family, find dates, get news and share their personal stories. Conclusive evidence on the impact of social media on mental health is still taking shape, what with social media becoming more interactive through use of images, video and livestreaming rather than just text and the occasional photo. However, some studies confirm that while social media can foster a sense of community and connectedness, excessive use correlates with mental health disorders like depression.

The study of social media and its impact on human behavior is possible through an online Master of Science in CyberPsychology program from Norfolk State University. By learning about current and emerging technologies, students can better understand the motivations and reasoning behind cybercrimes, cyberbullying, excessive gaming and the effects of digital ubiquity on mental health.

Social Media: Detriment or Benefit?

Connecting with others in real life can provide comfort, ease stress, boost self-esteem and produce feelings of happiness and positivity. While some social media use may provide the same benefits, there is evidence to suggest that unchecked use can do just the opposite, triggering feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. Social media can engender feelings of inadequacy about one’s appearance, exacerbate the harmful effects of FOMO (fear of missing out) and encourage obsessive or even narcissistic behavior.

A study published in 2019 found, however, that using social media mindfully as part of a routine can be beneficial. Those who are better at self-regulating their online behavior and usage often experience better mental health and overall well-being. Having a strong network through social media can help make up for a lack of face-to-face interaction, which can be extremely beneficial for the socially anxious. Staying connected virtually can also help combat feelings of isolation and loneliness. The key is to draw boundaries around social media use to keep it from taking a toll on one’s mental health.

Social media helps the naturally introverted feel less inhibited in discussing mental illness and psychological well-being. Some are inspired to be healthier through their interactions in online discussion forums or chat groups. For instance, media-rich platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat have the power to encourage positive and healthy behaviors such as good nutrition and regular exercise. Announcing fitness or nutrition goals on social media is a way of holding oneself accountable, and the social sharing of information from wearable devices like fitness trackers uses gamification to spark motivation.

If you’re interested in examining how technology and psychological theory shape human behavior, an online master’s in cyberpsychology may be right for you. By designing and conducting basic and other original forms of research, you can help advance this new discipline and be on the cutting edge of critical thought in cyberpsychology. Norfolk State’s online degree program can help you launch a career in a number of diverse fields through roles like digital forensics consultant, cyber analyst, UI/UX designer, clinical research manager and social science researcher.

Learn more about Norfolk State University’s online Master of Science in CyberPsychology program.

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