Communities and Social Media

Social Media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, have led to the decline of Mental Well-being


The purpose of this paper is to investigate and explain how social media can have negative impacts on the mental well-being of users. This paper will argue that online social media communities are inauthentic and yet are replacing real communities which is consequently causing mental health to suffer. The evidence to support this position is that the illusion of sociality prompted by platforms are in actuality inauthentic; that platforms encourage false self-promotion; and that online communities are divisive and dangerously exposing. The particular emphasis is on the leading social media platforms of Facebook and Twitter. It, therefore, falls into the stream of ‘Communities and Social Media’, as it examines how real-world communities are affected by social media platforms.


Since the advent of social media, real-world communities have been on the decline as they are increasingly being replaced by these virtual platforms. Facebook and Twitter, in particular, have been central to the creation of online “communities” by actively promoting virtual connections as ways to stay in-touch, share information and make our social-lives easier. In reality, however, the impact of these “social” media can be devastating on users’ mental well-being. That is; the capacity for an individual or group to understand their limitations, cope with stresses in life, feel good about themselves and enables them to contribute to their communities productively (Ozorio, 2011). Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can degrade mental well-being through encouraging the maintenance of inauthentic relationships, the rewarding of false self-promotion and the ever-blurring of our private lives into the public sphere. Pressured and incited by the need for validation from these online “communities”, the results is a move away from real, supportive communities that are so necessary to good mental well-being. It is, thus, without a doubt that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can lead to the decline of mental well-being through their replacing of real community connection. 

One way in which social media platforms have facilitated the decline of mental well-being is through the inauthentic natures of online relationships. In this technological age, the distinction between genuine online relationships and acquaintances have become more difficult to distinguish (Amedie, 2015, p. 9). Notably this is because social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter forge and maintain arbitrary connections; “friends” and “followers” which facilitate virtual false intimacy (Amedie, 2015, p. 9); the perceived sense of sociality gained from having larger networks and online “connections”. And these statistics are explicitly exhibited on a user’s profile, making it easier for comparisons to be drawn between themselves and others (Staehler, 2014, p. 229). However this feeds into users’ insecurities and their desire for acceptance (Grieve et al., 2019). Humans, of course, have a fundamental need to feel as though they belong (Yubo et al., 2019) and so they employ platforms such as Facebook to gain validation and to understand themselves in relation to others (Grieve et al., 2019). Consequently, users often become addicted to social media (Yubo et al, 2019) in attempt to “better” their scores in terms of the number of followers, friends and subsequent “likes” they have (Staehler, 2014, p. 229). And this can lead to what has been called “Facebook Depression”, defined as the depressive mental-state which arises from spending excessive amounts of time on social media (Amedie, 2015, p. 6). Studies by the University of Michigan found that upwards of 70% of social media users exhibit symptoms of depression (Amedie, 2015, p. 6). As a result, users withdraw further into their virtual world and pull away from reality, believing the online world is more predictable and manageable than the real one (Staehler, 2014, p. 239). The unfortunate truth is, however, that pain caused online from the feeling of inadequacy or isolation is felt as pain in the real world too. These “friends” are but a number, and are ultimately based around the illusion that more followers means more sociality.

One example of online relationships resulting in heightened mental health issues is a sub-culture that formed on various platforms, including Facebook, back in the early 2010s called “Pro-Ana” and “Pro-Mia”; vernacular for pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia, respectively (Borzekowski et al, 2011). This was a “community” mostly created by and targeted at young girls (most of whom had or were recovering from eating disorders) as a “supportive” community of “like-minded” individuals who advocated that such eating disorders were healthy and beneficial “diets” which did not need to be cured (Borzekowski et al, 2011). It even promoted starvation and self-inflicted vomiting, posted pictures of bony models as “thinspiration”, as well as offered ways in which to hide the “diets” from unsupportive family and friends (Borzekowski et al, 2011). This troubling “community” is, of course, not a safe subculture for young girls to be a part of and yet was active on social media. But this group, and others like it, are not real support, arising from actual allegiance to the followers. The real care and loyalty to an individual are those given by real-world friends and family, where true support is in the form of affection, actual action and words of admiration. Online connections and networks can come from across the globe, drawing thin any real loyalty; where relationships and support can be reduced to that of thumbs-up or photo-quotes, and where an emoji will suffice instead of real conversation. Thus, it is likely that the illusion of sociality promoted by social media encourages individuals to seek a “supportive” community for their “like-minded” marginalised groups, as to gain reassurance. Consequently this burgeoned such a subculture to form online – not offline, notably. Therefore; it can be concluded that the inauthentic nature of relationships and communities maintained on or created over social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can lead to the decline of mental well-being. The persistent desire for validation from inauthentic virtual relationships leads only to further withdrawal from real-world communities that are key to improving mental health (Staehler, 2014, p. 239).

Additionally, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter degrade mental well-being through users’ forged self-promotion. As aforementioned, humans have a desire to belong (Yubo et al., 2019). However, an obstacle to this is the inadvertent social comparisons drawn between a user and their online “relationships” – primarily the incorrect belief that other people are happier. The result of this is that users feel compelled (or even pressured) to make strategic decisions and manipulate what they, themselves, post as to be of a self-enhancing nature (Grieve et al., 2019). And this is an avenue in which users feel they can achieve validation from online social networks. But this, of course, is only a façade; hiding one’s flaws and highlighting one’s successes (Grieve et al, 2019); the self-affirmation filter. Fuelling this is the unrealistic goals promoted on these very platforms; a vicious cycle of self-glorification leading to others attempting to glorify themselves, in an ever increasing manner, by following trends and striving to meet promoted standards.

An example of self-presentation in an inauthentic means as to gain “acceptance” is through social media challenges. This includes posting videos of oneself completing various trending “challenges”, some of which have been outright dangerous. For example; the “car surfing challenge” (which entails standing on a moving car) and the “Tide-pod challenge” (which entails consuming part of or the whole of a dish-washing tablet) – both of which have resulted in deaths (Murphy, 2019). And yet rewarding these behaviours are the arbitrary systems built into the interfaces such as “up-votes”, “likes”, “reposts/retweets” and “views”. These systems can also often result in stress, arising from the constant attempt to present unachievable perfection in wealth, beauty, happiness, employment, marriage/family and lifestyle (Amedie, 2015, p. 8). Therefore, what social media platforms such as Facebook are doing is diminishing users’ mental well-being through the rewarding of presenting fake lives and senseless achievements. Facebook identities present everything good in life but leave out the true sentiments, and therefore contribute to isolation from real-world communities and, ultimately; decrease well-being (Onder, 2019).

Another way in which social media has led to the decline of mental well-being is through the ever-blurring binaries of private and public spheres. As Van Dijck (2012) suggests; no longer are our private lives separate and reserved for personal relationships but rather are increasingly being exposed to public audiences. Through the channels of social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter, the actions of users are forever immortalised. Aspects of one’s personal lives from their connections, relationship status, sexual preferences, birthday date, and affiliations with conceptual or ideological groups in society such as political opinions, are not even inadvertently shared but even prompted by the interfaces, themselves, to be part of one’s profile (Van Dijck, 2012). And even one’s actions and behaviours can be preserved indefinitely; every photograph shared, every added connection, liked post or comment (Van Dijck, 2012) – impacting our real-world lives from employment opportunities to relationships. The true danger and degradation come from our wholes lives being amalgamated into one place and open to the scrutiny of the public. Any perceived homogeneousness regarding real-world communities is, thus, diminished and replaced by virtual divisions and intolerance that propagate into the real-world (Sunstein, 2017). Even our homes are no longer an escape from the opinions of others. A survey by the Rhodes Wellness College (2019) found that 70% of young adults online had experienced digital hate, and 41% of adults online had been victims of it – 66% having witnessed it. The result of this can be devastating on the mental well-being of users. While people do naturally gravitate to surround themselves among people who resemble them, whether culturally, politically/ideologically or ethnically (Tucker et al., 2018), when these differences are promoted online, the result is often echo-chambers that perpetuate intolerance and polarised, extreme views (Conover et al., 2011). Coupled with social media’s ability to disseminate information quickly (Tucker et al., 2018), as well as possible anonymity leading to uncivil or demeaning discussion, this can even impact the real-world too; dividing real communities because of a drop in perceived homogeneousness as well as the aforementioned desire to relate to our “communities”.

Often trailing these divides is public shaming, mob-justice and even cyberbullying. For example, in 2013 actress Paris Hilton made the unfortunate mistake of confusing Martin Luther King with Nelson Mandela, misidentifying the latter to be the writer of the famous ‘I had a Dream’ speech, on Twitter (Moosa, 2014). This mistake was widely shamed and Hilton, herself, received many hurtful, derogatory and excessively threatening retweets, dismissing her as the perceived “other” – in this case a “stupid, reality television star” (Moosa, 2014). Most ironically of all, however, was that the Tweet was found to be faked and Hilton never made such a mistake (Moosa, 2014). But of course the harm both in public defamation and public humiliation to Hilton had been done; forever immortalised in the thousands of screenshots, views, shares and responses across the globe. And she, of course, is not the only user to be publically shamed, whether “justifiably” or not. An aunt in America, Jennifer Connell, was vilified and harassed online as the “#AuntfromHell” when she was called-out for allegedly suing her twelve year-old nephew after breaking her wrist trying to hug him (Rhodes Wellness College, 2019). And an American man, Adam Smith, lost his job – and a second – and was forced to move cities having been reduced to living off food-stamps in an RV after he was filmed being rude to an employee at a Chick-Fil-A (Diaz & Effron, 2015). He even received death-threats. In both cases, their private lives were exposed but lacked the contextual information important to the situations; Ms Connell was not, in fact, suing her nephew, but utilising unremarkable, standard legal-procedure for a medical insurance claim which, although named her nephew, did not require him nor his family to pay for any compensation (Goldhill, 2015). And Mr Smith was a pro-LGBTQ advocate and one of many advocates protesting against Chick-Fil-A for its anti-LGBTQ stance (Diaz & Effron, 2015). His only crime was being self-righteously ill-mannered – but that does not warrant receiving threats against his life. Regardless; the pitch-forks of the internet had been raised without trial, and the mental well-being for both Ms Connell and Mr Smith were diminished – the latter had to see multiple therapists and even contemplated suicide (Diaz & Effron, 2015). And even if justice seems warranted, the results are still adverse and long-lasting for an individual’s mental well-being, excluding them from employment, dating, anonymity, safety and the right to defence (Rhodes Wellness College, 2019) and consequently almost always impacts their mental health as they are ridiculed from the community, both on- and offline. Thus, this blurring of private and public spheres on social media can have impacts on real-world lives which can take a toll on mental health. Whether on a small-scale between “friend” connections or from cyberbullies to global mob-justice, the result is the same; a blight on mental well-being. 

Therefore, social media has a central role in the decline of mental well-being. While social media has the power to stimulate community networks, it too often can result in the exact opposite. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter encourage and reward individuals to replace their real-world communities with inauthentic relationships that result in an illusion of sociality and consequently a senseless need for validation and reassurance. This leads to the promotion of false personas and ultimately the dangerous exposure of private lives into the public sphere. And the results of this can be devastating on mental well-being. From the addictive desire to belong, to the stress resulting from aspiring for validation, and the possible scrutiny of having our lives on public display, mental well-being is vulnerable to collapse. Thus, social media can in many ways lead to the degradation of mental well-being as it is increasingly replacing real community connection. Virtual relationships are not authentic but what attracts people to them are very real; the desire for validation, reassurance and most of all; belonging. 


Amedie, J. (2015). The impact of social media on society. Pop Culture Intersections, 2(1), 1-18.

Borzekowski, D., Schenk, S., Wilson, J., & Peebles, R. (2011). E-ana and e-mia: A content analysis of pro-eating disorder web sites. American Journal of Public Health, 100(8), 1525-1534.

Conover, M., Ratkiewicz, J., Francisco, M., Goncalves, B., Menczer, F., & Flammini, A. (2011). Political polarization on Twitter. Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, 5(1).

Diaz, J. & Effron, L. (2015, March 26). Former CFO on food stamps after controversial viral video about Chick-Fil-A. ABC News.

Goldhill, O. (2015, October 18). If you sensed something was wrong with the story of the woman who sued her nephew, you were right. Quartz.

Grieve, R., March, E., & Jarrah, W. (2019). Inauthentic self-presentation on Facebook as a function of vulnerable narcissism and lower self-esteem. Computers in Human Behaviour, 102(1), 144-150.

Moosa, T. (2014, January 29). The dangers of public shaming, mob justice and scolding on the internet. New Statesman.

Murphy, R. (2019). The rationality of literal Tide Pod consumption. Journal of Bioeconomics, 21(1), 111-122.

Onder, B. (2019). The predictive relationships between the social media addiction and society anxiety, loneliness and happiness. International Journal of Progressive Education, 15(4), 73-77.

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Rhodes Wellness College. (2019). The effects of public shaming on mental health: What you need to know.

Staehler, T. (2014). Social networks as inauthentic sociality. International Studies in Phenomenology and Philosophy, 2(2), 227-247.

Sunstein, C. (2017). #Republic: Divided democracy in the age of social media. Princeton University Press.

Tucker, J., Guess, A., Barbera, P., Vaccari, C., Siegel, A., Sanovich, S., Stukal, D., & Nyhan, B. (2018). Social media, political polarization and political disinformation: A review of the scientific literature. Hewlett.

Van Dijck, J. (2012). Facebook as atool for producing sociality and connectivity. Television and New Media, 13(2), 160-176. 

Yubo, H., Xiong, D., Jiang, T., Song, L., & Wang, Q. (2019). Social media addiction: Its impact, mediation and intervention. Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 139(1).

28 thoughts on “Social Media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, have led to the decline of Mental Well-being

  1. Hi Amelia,

    Thanks for your sharing on how social media can have negative impacts on the mental well-being of users.

    Hope to see more controls will be introduced to protect social media users.

    Best regards,

  2. Hi Amelia,
    This was a great read! I agree with the arguments made and I think this is an important topic that needs to be spoken about more. I like how you’ve included both aspects of using social media as opposed to just one perspective on social media.
    What stood out most to me was the quote “Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can degrade mental well-being through encouraging the maintenance of inauthentic relationships, the rewarding of false self-promotion and the ever-blurring of our private lives into the public sphere”. The inauthentic relationships prevalent on Instagram especially has become significant and almost impossible to avoid as the majority of influencers on Instagram tend to post photos of their ‘ideal self’ as opposed to their ‘authentic self’ which causes a great amount of impact on an individual’s mental health as the standards of beauty or body image is unattainable due to hours of using touch-ups apps which we, as users don’t get to see.
    However, I’ve seen many influencers try to eradicate the idea of an ideal self and have become more prone to showing their authentic self and have started to encourage their followings to do the same. This makes them more relatable and I think helps with mental health as well.

    1. Hi Saranya, thanks for the thoughts!
      Social media influencers are definitely an interesting case, which I would have liked to have included in my paper. On one hand, they can promote unachievable standards to the average population which can fuel mental health issues. Many people do not realise the extend to which photoshopping, eating-disorders or filters can impact an influencer’s image. Conversely, however, I do agree that there has been a move toward more authentic representation from influencers, such as plus-size models, models with disabilities or those with physical differences, or from ethnic minorities. And this, of course, can be a good thing. Studies have found that exposure to body-positive content on platforms such as Instagram can support self-esteem and positive body image (Cohen et al, 2019).
      This being said, I still believe the net results of influencers (and general users too) are negative. Ultimately, I think the negatives outweigh the positives. In fact, there has been research into how even body-positive influencers can impact our self-image. Namely; authentic body promotion and self-love influencers are STILL focussing on physical appearances (in other words; our bodies), and making users think about their body’s size, shape and structure more often (Oakes, 2019). Might it not be best if there was just no focus on physicality, at all?
      And all of this is not to mention how fashion, make-up and other brandings from even self-love influencers can impact our mental health. Even if an influencer is plus-size or physically different, they can still promote standards in wealth and beauty when it comes to branded products or clothing they wear and advertise.
      What do you think?

      Cohen, R., Fardouly, J., Newton-John, T., & Slater, A. #BoPo on instagram: An experimental investigation of the effects of body positive content on young women’s mood and body image. New Media Society 21(7).

      Oakes, K. (2019, March 12). The complication truth about social media and body image. BBC.

      1. Hey Amelia!
        Thanks for the response! I completely agree with you. The negatives most certainly do outweigh the positives in this case. I think because of the portrayal of body image on social media, people have become more self-conscious in terms of how they look due to the influences online. As you said, it would be better if there were no emphasis at all on an individual’s appearance and body image as this would decrease their mental health due to the elimination of comparisons online.

        It’s really sad that a lot of people are judged based on their size and appearance but I guess in our society where make-up, fashion, etc. have become necessary, it’s hard to not pass comments whether it’s deliberately or unknowingly.

        Do you think social media influences will become aware of this negativity in the future and put a stop to body shaming and how an ideal body should look like? Will we ever stop comparing ourselves to those on social media?

        1. Hi again Saranya,
          I think social media influencers are, currently, becoming more aware of the negativity that they ‘profession’ can present – but I also think it won’t stop them. Namely, I think it is often difficult to judge which influencers are “bad” and which are “good”. For example, are pro-fitness influencers bad because they promote thin, toned and athletic body types? Or are they good because they promote healthy lifestyles, fitness and self-care? Also, I should add, many influencers might not actively be shaming certain body types but rather the followers, themselves, are inadvertently becoming disillusioned about their own physicality because of the comparisons they draw. Consequently, it is our own self-esteem issues and low self-confidences that are impacting how we respond to these influencers (Jiang & Ngien, 2020).

          Which leads me to your next question about whether will we ever stop comparing ourselves to others online? My answer is probably not. It is in our human nature to draw comparisons between ourselves and others, and social media, unfortunately, exacerbates that issue by showing us the lives, bodies, styles and standards of people from all around the globe. It is easy, thus, to believe we aren’t beautiful, or wealthy, or popular, when we are shown, every day, that there are people all around the world who are “better” than us.
          Thanks for the thoughts!

          Jiang, S., & Ngien, A. (2020). The effects of Instagram use, social comparison, and self-esteem on social anxiety: A survey study in Singapore. Communications and New Media, 6(2).

          1. Hi Amelia!
            You raise some really strong arguments and I completely agree with you.
            I really liked how you’ve acknowledged that our self-esteem and self-confidence dictate our perception of such information that is out there.
            Thanks for the great discussion!

  3. Hi Amelia,

    Such a great insight into the superficial reality of digital life. The points you vividly illustrate are parallel to the human phenomenon of mass conformity and social pressure but with dangerous repercussions to an individual’s mental well-being.

    Social media’s facilitation of inauthentic relationships and perceived sense of sociability through accumulation of “friends” and “likes” sounds eerily similar to conspicuous consumption practices. Conspicuous consumption relates to the continuous acquirement of assets which are usually to establish social hierarchy and status distinctions (Hamilton & Dennis, 2005). In this case, “friends,” “followers” and “likes” are digital assets which are used to determine one’s desirability and social status. These arbitrary connections are easier to create and maintain than actual physical relationships. Perceived sense of sociability becomes a part of a superficial vanity, gloating on one’s ability to acquire these digital assets to increase supposed self-worth. The concluding result of “Facebook depression” is not surprising, especially when these platforms invite users to scrutinize their connections in pervasive detail. Do you know if “Facebook Depression” is common symptom in a diverse range of users, or does it only affect those who desire to acquire online admiration?

    Your example of pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia online communities are a scary reality of how “thin communities” (bad taste pun not intended) are formed out of similar minded people who are searching for alternative reasoning to their impeding life situation. The communities you describe sound like a negative feedback loop of a similar minded ideological delusion, which encompasses the same description as an echo chamber. This echo-chamber exposes the community’s users to similar-minded ideological content that fuels the rise of extreme and radicalised behaviour. In this case could it be that “thin-acceptance” has evolved into “thinspiration” through the repetition and entrenchment of the ideology? Food for thought.
    Another fault in online communities is the inability to determine genuinity. Do you think that because online communities are accessible to a wide range of users, make them susceptible to becoming infiltrated by those who do not share the community’s interests? It sounds to me that this vulnerable community is being influenced by malevolent users who are using it to fuel detrimental lifestyle choices for sociopathic amusement.

    “The real care and loyalty to an individual are those given by real-world friends and family, where true support is in the form of affection, actual action and words of admiration” a brilliantly written truth that social media users need to be aware of.

    Social media’s facilitation of forged self-promotion is encompassed by people who seek digital acquisitions to obtain social position and prestige among society (Gabriel & Lang, 2006). Some psychologists claim that people desire to bring their ideal self into accord with their actual self through these digital practices of lifestyle glorification. People are thought to complete themselves symbolically by falsifying things that compensate for their perceived limitations. These perceived limitations fuel a feedback loop from inadvertent social comparisons drawn between users and their online relationships. The self-affirmation filter makes me question if people unknowingly imitate “happiness” through their passive viewing of other users unrealistic dispensing of personal content. If so, then we are truly a society of lemmings.

    The arguments of forged self-promotion and perceived sense of sociability seem to intertwine with social medias ever-blurring binaries of private and public spheres. Because of social medias enabling of personal exhibition and allowing for pervasive scrutinization, users expose themselves to creating an immortalised archive of a homogenised digital identity – where everything which users do and identify as is able to be judged by an audience to an unknown reaction. Social media is akin to a state surveillance agency, only operated by gullible volunteers. The thought itself is anxiety provoking.

    To conclude, I believe your paper wonderfully illustrates the negative sides of social media which are not discussed enough. Your paper is a must read for anyone who is habitually using social media platforms.

    Play stupid games, win stupid prizes – and social media sounds like the stupidest game of them all.

    Hamilton, C. and Denniss, R. (2005). What is Affluenza? Affluenza: When Too Much Is Never Enough (pp. 3-18). Allen & Unwin.

    Gabriel, Y., & Lang, T. (2006). ‘Introduction: The Faces of the Consumer. The unmanageable consumer (pp. 9-13). ProQuest Ebook Central

    1. Hey Alastair!
      Thanks for the comprehensive reply! You’ve outlined a lot of good points and made some worthy extensions onto my own arguments.
      To answer your first question, I did some more reading up into Facebook Depression. Notably, it is usually just accepted as depression caused by excessive use of social media (note that this includes ALL platforms, not just Facebook). However, one case study did assert that users who discussed personal problems to online friends were more likely to possess Facebook depression (Amedie, 2015, p. 7). It makes note that before the age of technology, people would either discusses personal issues in person OR in private journals/diaries (Amedie, 2015, p. 7). Thus, it concludes that the depression and/or anxiety often arises from the immortalisation of our personal-problem, and through the publicity it can garner (i.e. receiving both negative and positive comments). It further elaborates that users then become obsessive about these problems, and can’t move on with their lives; problems that would have been considerably easier to overcome when confiding in real-world friends, such as general body-image issues or unrequited crushes (Amedie, 2015). A range of other studies also attribute higher numbers of online “friends”, lack of immediate replies to posts, higher levels of public information shared on their profile, a high frequency of reading friends’ updates, and simply general excessive use.

      I also agree with your claim that “thin-acceptance” likely evolved into “thinspiration”. It is rational to consider that within any given echo-chamber, general beliefs can transform into something more. Particularly if already-vulnerable people are specifically seeking reassurance and mutual understanding about their personal and uncommon condition/issue, I can imagine how easy it would be to change the line of thought from “we are all living with a shared problem; a misunderstood disorder” to “our shared disorder is misunderstood and so isn’t actually a problem”. This sort of shift in beliefs can also be observed in other parts of society, and throughout history. What might have been considered shameful to an individual when kept to themselves, can often become a matter of pride, even empowerment, when shared with a group (think specific disabilities, sexualities, racial or religious minority-statuses, etc). Social media just acts as the platform that can enable the union of such individuals, and consequently; enables the echo-chamber effect, which in many cases (including the pro-ana/mia example) is not a good thing.

      Likewise, this converges with your other insight; whether the accessibility and perhaps anonymity of social media platforms can enable users with ill-intentions to infiltrate these “communities”. I would agree that this is definitely a possibility (and current truth, unfortunately). Even with my other example of social media challenges, I read up on notable cases of challenges that could only have been thought up by sociopaths (or likeminded trolls). I didn’t include them in my actual paper due the disturbing nature of them, but examples include: the fire challenge (literally setting parts of your body on fire with an accelerant), the blue whale challenge (a 50-day challenge of daily tasks that end with suicide), the alleged Momo challenge (using various means to commit suicide, often live-streamed), the salt-and-ice challenge (burning yourself using chemical/thermal reactions), 48hr missing challenge (get your photo and name trending in the media by “disappearing” for two days) and the choking challenge (using various means to restrict your airways and make yourself pass out…82 deaths are accredited to this one) – (Brooks, 2020). And that is not even to mention cyberbullies, sexual predators, scammers, hackers, catch-fishers, black-mailers and trolls, who chat-up vulnerable users or communities.

      Your additional points that elaborate on my own about fake identities and exaggerated self-promotion, is also really good! It is a regrettable concept that people have to falsify their lives and identity just to feel validated. It makes you wonder what aspects of someone’s life is being withheld? This reminds me of a (I think award-winning) short film [see appendix] I studied for an essay project, back in high school, about how we live our “best lives” through digital channels, but experience none of it in reality. Because it is unfortunately the truth that we become addicted to wanting reassurance and a sense of belonging, and so this keeps us from actually presenting our true selves and our real troubles and sentiments – which are “undesirable”. Rewarded by the systems of ‘likes’, ‘upvotes’ and ‘views’, “desirable” behaviour is reinforced and so users become compelled to present only their “best” self, or exaggerate their “desirable” behaviours (Grieve et al, 2019). Usually this is by attempting to follow the unachievable standards of others that received the most ‘likes’. As you say; this just leads to a cycle of users faking their lives as to improve upon other user’s fake lives, and on and on.
      With this in mind, it is almost reasonable to consider that we ARE a society of lemmings.
      Thanks, again, for the insightful response!

      Amedie, J. (2015). The impact of social media on society. Pop Culture Intersections, 2(1), 1-18.

      Brooks, S. (2020, February 2). Five most dangerous social media challenges to warn your kids about. Channel 8 News.

      Grieve, R., March, E., & Jarrah, W. (2019). Inauthentic self-presentation on Facebook as a function of vulnerable narcissism and lower self-esteem. Computers in Human Behaviour, 102(1), 144-150.

      HigtonBros. (2014, June 2). What’s on your mind [video]. YouTube.
      ^ Warning: it depicts upsetting content!

  4. Hello Amelia,

    Your paper was just a pleasure to read! I like the flow and the ideas that you highlighted in it. You have done a lot of research on the subject and thus gave a lot of weight to all your arguments.
    It is important to see and learn about this dark side of social media platforms. I, myself, have seen a lot of people around me being mentally affected by what happens online. For example, a girl from my past high school has attempted to hurt herself because of cyber-bullying. Unfortunately, this continues to happen every day around the globe on social media platforms. After doing research on the topic and writing your paper, do you have any recommendations to change this situation? I would be glad to discuss it with you!

    On the other hand, my paper focuses on the positive effects of social media, especially YouTube, on black women. I encourage you to read it and I am looking forward to some more discussion.
    The link to my paper is here:
    “Black Natural Hair Vloggers on YouTube Are Empowering Their Audiences’ by Encouraging Them to Embrace Their Black Identity.”

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    1. Hi Rachel,
      Thanks for the reply!
      To answer your question, my only real recommendation to change the situation is to encourage and promote a better balance of our offline and online lives – or at least spread awareness of how detrimental social media can be on our wellbeing – because, unfortunately, I don’t believe this is talked about enough. And this should most likely be done through educational avenues (i.e. school) but, more importantly, should start in our own homes. From a very (increasingly) young age, people in society are being shown that digital worlds are “the norm” and so generation-by-generation, people are becoming more addicted. The effects of this are very clear, like you say.
      The platforms themselves, I think, could be altered too, but this is more difficult to implement. One way could be by having less explicit emphasis on statistics including “likes”, “upvotes” and “friends”, or perhaps restrict just how ‘public’ a post can be? Regrettably, however, I don’t think much else in the software that could be changed/enforced. This is because a lot of the problems arise from our biological human nature; we already compare ourselves to others, we already argue about issues to the point of outright intolerance, we already desire validation from our relationships and we already have forms of mob-justice (i.e. think of medieval witch trials, public executions, post-WWII public humiliation marches, etc). Social media, itself, is but the platforms which have exacerbated these real-world issues by publicising, aggravating, immortalising and enlarging them, globally. In this way, it should probably be us, the people, who need to change and not the actual platforms. The obvious channel to do this would be to purge ourselves of these social media accounts entirely (I, myself, do not have any social media), but considering this is highly unlikely and perhaps a little over-board, then like I stated: awareness is our best option.
      How about you; do you have any ideas about how to solve these issues?
      Thanks for reading my paper!

  5. Hi Amelia,

    Really enjoyed this paper and think its an important issue to cover. I spent a bit of time talking about it in my conference paper and think it needs to be taken more seriously.

    I think the idea of inauthentic online relationships is really interesting. I believe there is a lot of that which goes on and a lot of it is to do with the popularity, attention seeking contest which social media has become. I see groups of influencers posing for photos at special events and think about how fake those relationships potentially are. However, if its gaining more likes, followers or attention, people are more than happy to pretend like they are best friends with someone or a group of people for social media’s sake. I wrote about how people forming these inauthentic online relationships have trouble seperating that and it impacts their ability to maintain and grow offline ones. Do you believe we’ve gone too far with ingraining social media into our lives that we’ll be able to wrestle some balance back for the mental well-being of our future generations?

    Really interesting read.


    1. Hi Declan,
      That is an interesting point; I do wonder if there is a point-of-no-return when it comes to social media use? Really, social media has become such a central pivot-point in our lives in this modern world. We could quite possibly live through social media; work through it, advertise through it, socialise with friend, live-stream our experiences, read the news, argue politics, communicate with family, stay-in-touch with old friends, plan events – everything! And this was particularly true during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
      Linking this to my paper, as well as your question, I think there is unfortunately a continuous feedback loop between mental health and social media usage. Fundamentally; people with mental health issues are more likely to use social media because online socialisation seems “easier” and more predictable than in real-life (Staehler, 2014, p. 239). But then resulting directly from this is a withdrawal from real relationships in the real world, which of course further reduces mental health. In this way, mental well-being continues to diminish, in a never-ending cycle.
      A study by Onder (2019) that outlines the predictive behaviour mental illness has on social media use. It was found that people with mental health issues such as anxiety or depression were more likely to become addicted to social media, as they perceived less social-risk online and believed it was easier to express themselves when they were not face-to-face socialising (Onder, 2019, p. 74). Thus, the very reason they utilised social media in the first place (before eventually becoming addicted) was also the very reason they were staying mentally unwell.
      So, to answer your question; I do think we have gone too far with ingraining social media into our lives – but perhaps not far enough, for all of us. If we can learn to recognise that an unhealthy offline/online balance is detrimental to our well-being, then we need only alter our lifestyles to fix it. More awareness into this would be beneficial – and, like you said; it does need to be taken more seriously! Unfortunately for some it may seem impossible to end the continuous feedback loop of negativity, but that is why offline relationships are so important! It can take just one real face-to-face conversation or one real-world relationship to show someone that they needn’t be online all the time. Just one conversation or person is obviously not enough, but it is a start, at least, and so that’s why it is up to individuals to be that real-world person; to go out and talk to someone (many someones!), whether friend or stranger, to help disconnect those people who have inadvertently become addicted.
      And it mightn’t happen any time soon, but I hope future generations will realise and learn to have a better, healthier balance. Right now, though; it starts with individuals taking it upon themselves to disconnect. Even just once.
      Thanks for the response!

      Onder, B. (2019). The predictive relationships between the social media addiction and society anxiety, loneliness and happiness. International Journal of Progressive Education, 15(4), 73-77.
      Staehler, T. (2014). Social networks as inauthentic sociality. International Studies in Phenomenology and Philosophy, 2(2), 227-247.

  6. Hi Amelia,

    I agree with you on a lot of what was said in your paper, which made it an enjoyable read. I wrote on a very similar topic in my paper, particularly the part about self-promotion causing issues in users’ mental wellbeing. I believe that social media has the power to isolate young users from their community, and the decline of mental health is one of the factors causing this. I’ve linked my paper here as I would love to hear your thoughts on the other topics I wrote on!


  7. Hey Amelia,
    I really enjoyed reading your paper and I tend to agree with most of what you’ve said as it is closely aligned with many of my opinions on the harmful effects of social media on it’s users.

    I’ve noticed that a few people are arguing how some specific communities can be beneficial for some people but I like how you have taken a look at the bigger picture and made a good case for the overall effects of social media as being detrimental. What I gathered from your essay was that whilst it is true that there may be some positive communities set up on social media sites, the over-reliance on digital communities has become a serious threat to the mental health of people in our current culture. This can be especially concerning when people turn to communities such as the “pro-ana” and “pro-mia” groups that you mentioned in your piece.

    In my conference paper I’ve taken a look at the “incel” (involuntary celibate) community and I discuss how some toxic communities online can have the effect of radicalising their members with dangerous ideologies. I think you may find it interesting as it provides another instance of the negative impacts of online communities. I’ll provide the link below.

    I was wondering about your personal experience with social media. Have you taken steps to avoid it? Do you think there is a way people can use it that can be beneficial? I know I’ve drastically limited my exposure to it and have only seen benefits.

    Anyway, here’s a link to my paper if you’re interested:


    1. Hi Cameron,
      Thanks for the reply! To answer your question about my personal experience with social media, I can tell you that I definitely have limited my exposure – because I have no social media, at all! And I feel this has benefited me, particularly my mental well-being. So, yes, my personal stance is that these platforms largely degrade mental health, but that being said, I do think there are ways people can benefit from online communities as long as there is a healthy balance between their online/offline communities. Social media can be a worthy supplement to real-world relationships, but if it replaces it fully, then I am sceptical it can be as mentally-beneficial as real-world communities.
      I’ll be sure to check out your paper, and add onto this train of thought!

      1. Oh OK, so you have completely limited your exposure to it, I guess that’s a good way to completely avoid all the negativity out there! I think we are both on the same page about how dangerous social media can be on mental health, but we recognise there are some instances, when they are used sparingly, where they can be helpful. I guess it’s all about balance, but it seems that the way they are used at the moment is having a net negative effect in my opinion. As you say; social media should be used as a supplement for real-world relationships, not a complete replacement. Having said this, I feel like we are still in our infancy in terms of how we are learning to use this new technology, it’s like a social experiment that no one really signed up for. Speaking on behalf of my age group (I’m 27) I feel like a lot of people are starting to realise how harmful social media can be and are beginning to limit their use which makes me hopeful for the future. But then I look at the younger generation who seem completely dependant on it and I feel like it might just get worse. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the future of social media use. Do you think it will get better or worse?

        1. Hello again,
          I think the future of social media is really interesting to consider. I, personally, hope it will downgrade to not have such a central role in our modern world, but it’s difficult to imagine it will. Notably, however, there has been some assertion that current social media platform giants such as Facebook are not as popular as they once were, and the number of users are actually on the decline (Wilson, 2020), particularly for young people. While this should sound like good news, apparently other platforms are actually growing in popularity. Baer (2018) explains that Facebook is too broad a platform; it isn’t the best for videos, nor for messaging, nor for news, nor for photos, and nor for discussion, whereas more “upcoming” platforms with more specialisation (i.e. Instagram for photographs, TikTok for vines, Snapchat for memes, reddit for discussions, etc) are actually growing in popularity – for that reason. These “older” platforms are also now being criticised for invasion of privacy (i.e. personal data), for increased polarisation, and even for being too intergenerational (Baer, 2018), because younger generations don’t want their parents on the same social media (Wilson, 2020). Wilson (2020) similarly makes note that more personal and private digital spaces are more attractive to users – things like private messanger, group-chats, or niche threads – all as to combat these issues of privacy-invasion, intolerant echo-chambers and helicopter parents.

          So, as unfortunate as it is, it looks as though social media is here to stay – and a broader range too. This being said, my hope is that people in the future will become more exposed and understanding of the negative impacts over-use of social media has on their lives and will alter their lifestyles accordingly (probably not to the extent of getting rid of it completely, like myself, though). Markedly, like you, I too think that current, younger generations are becoming dangerously dependant on social media, and unfortunately, this means the negative impacts will likely only aggravate. Linking this back to one of my original examples of pro-ana/pro-mia platforms (as well as your own example of incel communities); mental-health is what has driven many users TO social media, so perhaps in the coming years this will come full-circle and we will see a drive off social media, due to the repercussions on mental health it has. But, truly, it is impossible to imagine what will come of these digital worlds we have created. They may only prove to exacerbate the current problems with well-being till they collapse in on themselves, or maybe they will miraculously improve our wellbeing? I cannot ignore the uses and benefits social media has had during Covid-19 lockdowns, when it kept so many of us in contact with our friends and families – and likely improved our mental health because of it. In a twisted way, it almost is as though we are living “the future” right now – one of forced separation and isolation. So perhaps we may even live to rely, solely, on social media to improve our socialisation – and ultimately; our welling being. As you said: we most definitely are in our infancy when it comes to seeing the impacts. And that’s a scary prospect, indeed.
          I guess we can only wait and see!

          Baer, J. (2018, March 8). Facebook usage declined and the three reasons why. Convince and Convert.
          Wilson, S. (2020, February 5). Social Platforms: The era of antisocial social media. Harvard Business Review.,Z%20audiences%20spend%20on%20many

          1. Hey again Amelia,

            I definitely agree with you that we can’t really hope for these technologies to disappear because it seems pretty clear that they are here to stay. We can’t rely on the social media companies to fix the problems they are causing with mental health, I think the onus has to be left up to the individual to moderate their use. Social media companies profit from our attention and they are never going to stop seeking it. That’s why it will be so important to continue to educate people on the dangers of social media so they can take the appropriate steps to limit their use, and that’s why paper’s like yours are important contributions to the discussion.


  8. Your paper made for a really interesting read, but social media can also be a helpful tool in supporting mental wellbeing, particularly among groups of people who are prone to isolation. My paper looks at social media as a tool for community building among transgender people, and highlights the ways in which online communities can be beneficial to a minority group. If you want to check it out the link is here:

    Social media can definitely harm and you’ve outlined that aspect of it really well. I very vividly remember the “pro-ana/mia” movement years ago, which was possibly the epitome of social media contributing to poor mental health. But when looking at the bigger picture, for a lot of isolated communities it can be really helpful and healing. In the case of my paper, it’s the transgender community who can benefit immensely from the connections they make through social media. And I also just read a paper about the benefit of social media for Aboriginal Australian communities (link: Those are just two examples, and I think it’s worth bringing attention to the positive impact the Internet can have on mental health too.

  9. Hi Amelia,
    I really enjoyed reading your paper. I tend to agree with a lot of what is written there about the decline of mental well being.
    Its interesting as my paper is on how beneficially online communities are for mothers of newborns and young children (will post link if you are interested in reading it).
    My paper is mainly about the benefits of having an online community due to not being able to have the same connections in real life due to various circumstances, where as yours is the opposite which is online communities are damaging to people in their real life.
    It just goes to show just how complicated the online world really is.

    My paper if you are interested can be found here…


  10. Hi Amelia,
    This was a great read. This quote in your paper really resonated with me and is something I touch on in my own paper – Mums’ Groups and the Patriarch: How online parenting communities reinforce patriarchal expectations of mothers (I will post a link below)

    “Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can degrade mental well-being through encouraging the maintenance of inauthentic relationships, the rewarding of false self-promotion and the ever-blurring of our private lives into the public sphere”

    I too found that the research suggests that self-promotion online can be a negative influence on one’s mental health, especially for vulnerable or isolated people. Do you think that everyone is susceptible to this decline in mental health? I often review my own use and I notice that the more I use social media, the more negative my thoughts and internal dialogue becomes even though I am not sharing that side of it in public.

    You discuss how the line between online communities and real-life becomes blurred. Do you think people who are isolated from or self isolate from real-life communities do so because of the way they can self promote and get the reward of the likes and friends etc – that they can see on the screen, whereas likes and friends in real life is more of a feeling than something confirmed in writing?

    My paper if you are interested in reading and discussing also:

    Thanks, Kristy

    1. Hi Kristy,
      Thanks for the reply! To answer your question; I do think that, within reason, everyone is capable of experiencing a decline in mental-wellbeing through social media. I’d argue that how “popular” we are online can often be a reflection on how “popular” we are in real life – or at least exacerbate and polarise it. For example, if someone is reserved and unconfident in the real world, so don’t have a large circle of friends and thus aren’t “popular” in that sense of the word, they may be actively seek reassurance online – thereby becoming even less “popular” offline. Meanwhile, someone who promotes themselves offline as fashionable, out-going and sociable will probably project that online and GAIN more “popularity”, both on- and offline.

      And that isn’t to say people can’t ever have improved wellbeing through such platforms – because many do! – but even good emotions can be bad for mental health in the long-run. For example, being happily rewarded for certain behaviour can lead to only promoting that behaviour and not revealing real, authentic behaviour.
      You also make an interesting point about why people might isolate themselves from real relationships. Of course, like you say, there is something attractive about receiving rewards for “desirable” online activity, and also through the self-promotion part of these platforms – and I’d definitely say that has a role in people becoming isolated from the real-world, where relationships might be far less explicit. This links to my previous example about popularity online being a reflection of our offline selves; we seek reassurance from a ‘greater’ crowd. It is very personalised whether or not we actually achieve it.
      Thanks for the insight!

      1. Hi Amelia,

        Thanks for replying. I tend to agree that at face value a person’s identity online can mirror that of their offline self and perhaps therefore their perceived social status or popularity, however, there are a number of papers shared at this conference that also discuss how identities online can be performed such as Warren (2021) and Etiennette (2021). How do you think performing identities online can impact persons well being online?

        During the course of researching my paper, I touched on how online parenting groups can contribute to a decline in mental well being for new mothers who may be vulnerable to post-natal depression and I found that new mothers tend to place value on external validation for their own self-worth (Schoppe-Sullivan et al. 2017, p.286) and tend to do this via their online self, especially when isolated. My paper also discusses how online parenting communities can have a toxic culture through judgment and comparison with each other. The study by Schoppe-Sullivan et al. (2017) also found that new mothers with depressive symptoms are shown to be the most sensitive to Facebook commentary that doesn’t validate their parenting experience (p.286) so it could be argued that people who are pre-disposed in some way to having mental health issues may find SNS’s even more detrimental than those who may not be pre-disposed. What do you think?

        – Kristy

        Etiennette, M. L. M. (2021, April 26) Performance of ideal self-online having a detrimental effect on social media influencer’s identity. [Paper Presentation]. 12th Annual Debating Communities and Networks, Online.

        Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J., Yavorsky, J. E., Bartholomew, M. K., Sullivan, J. M., Lee, M. A., Dush, C. M. K., & Glassman, M. (2017). Doing Gender Online: New Mothers’ Psychological Characteristics, Facebook Use, and Depressive Symptoms. Sex Roles, 76(5), 276-289.

        Warren, S. (2021, April 26) Social Networking Sites: How and why they mediate identity performance. [Paper Presentation]. 12th Annual Debating Communities and Networks, Online.

        1. Hi again,
          You do make some interesting points! And I do think that how we present ourselves online has a relationship with our mental health. A study by Grieve et al (2019) suggests that vulnerable people are far more likely to have an inauthentic self-presentation online. This infers that people who are already predisposed to have mental health vulnerabilities are more likely to falsify their performance of “desirable” behaviours, thereby concealing their real troubles – and likewise not receive any support.
          Similarly, while I do stand by my original stance that anyone could feasibly experience a drop in mental health due to social media, this example does show that some people are more vulnerable to the negative impacts of social media. So I agree with you; the adverse impacts of social media can be worse for people who were already predisposed to mental health problems.
          Thanks for the discussion!

          Grieve, R., March, E., & Jarrah, W. (2019). Inauthentic self-presentation on Facebook as a function of vulnerable narcissism and lower self-esteem. Computers in Human Behaviour, 102(1), 144-150.

  11. Hi Amelia,
    Great paper! I found it particularly interesting to read – especially due to the nature of the subject that you have chosen, and the fact that it is pretty much the complete opposite of my conference paper! Do you think there is both valid sides to the argument? Or would you argue that you think that there is no positives in social media for mental health. I look forward to hearing your opinion, thanks!

    1. Hi Erin,
      I do think there are valid arguments to both sides. Social media can help people find communities where they feel they belong, particularly for minorities or people with niche interests, or those who cannot physically leave the confinements of their home for whatever reason . However, I think these online communities should only supplement our real relationships, not replace them entirely. And in the case that they DO replace them entirely, I do not think there are many cases in the world where this would be beneficial at all. As discussed in my essay; our online selves aren’t exactly a real representation of true selves so there is no saying that someone you have a great friendship with online would actually have a similar dynamic with you in the real world. It is also less personal because of the restrictions being purely-online has, and less safe for similar reasons. Ultimately, people need personal, physical communities. These real relationships bring out (or at least make it harder to hide) our true hardships and difficulties, as well as actual affection and sentiment people give us. Seeking someone to confide in online can only receive words of support and not actual action of support. And we also learn to deal with both our own troubles (and seek actual help from others) as well as how to support the troubles of others – as both are important!
      Thanks for the question – it was interesting to think about!

      1. Hi Amelia,

        I really enjoyed reading your paper and I am glad you think there are valid arguments on both sides, you mentioned the points i was going to discuss “find communities where they feel they belong, particularly for minorities or people with niche interests, or those who cannot physically leave the confinements of their home for whatever reason” I definitely agree with this point entirely.

        I actually believe the opposite in regards to our online selves not being a real representation of our true selves. I honestly believe due the anonymity the online world provides, people are able to escape the confines of society and instead of conforming with how society expects them to act etc.. they are able to express their true authentic selves – in some cases this does lead to ‘trolls’ and toxic behaviour which 100% leads to mental decline but in a large proportion of cases it allows a level of freedom you might not otherwise have in the real world.

        Thanks –

  12. Hi Amelia,
    Your paper is very well written and I can see you have researched the facts well to back up the claims. I have noticed many of the papers examine the positive side of social media, but it is good to acknowledge the negative. Being aware of how online communities affect mental health is important so people are aware of how they can be impacted.

    There are good aspects to social media in regards to supporting mental health, though. In my paper, which I have included the link at the bottom, I found that connections and communities online can help LGBT teens. They are often isolated (especially during covid) or may live in areas where they can’t find support, and this can cause high rates of depression. However, find others online helps them not feel alone.

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