Mental Health and Social Media Part 1: Some reading that I did over break

Hold onto your hats because this post is a long-winded doozy. And I broke it up into two three parts!

Hi, I hope that you had a good holiday. Over my holiday break I found myself reading articles and thinking more about the themes of mental health and social media. I’ve been doing so much thinking about this that I wanted to take some time to share some of what I’ve read here.

I’ve heard that in the past few years young adults have been experiencing higher levels of mental health problems and anxiety than in previous eras.

In its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase — to 62 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2011 — of undergraduates reporting “overwhelming anxiety” in the previous year. Surveys that look at symptoms related to anxiety are also telling. In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at U.C.L.A. began asking incoming college freshmen if they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” during the previous year. In 1985, 18 percent said they did. By 2010, that number had increased to 29 percent. Last year, it surged to 41 percent.


– Source, New York Times “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?”

I found one particularly moving story of Madison Holleran, a young and talented student at Duke, who despite having a record of high-achievements suffered from a hidden depression which ultimately ended in suicide.

I wanted to know the reasons that could lead someone to such a tragic ending. So I tried digging a little deeper in two directions. First I looked into a concept discussed on NPR’s “Invisibilia” podcast – the idealized self. There is an opinion that if one has an idealized version of themselves i.e. a vision of the kind of person that they would like to be in the future then this ideal last version of themselves can become a part of their identity. This identity can become so strong that in the unfortunate scenario where a one cannot realize their idealized self it can lead to an identity crisis. I don’t have scientific evidence to back this opinion, however the”Invisibilia” podcast provides anecdotal evidence of this effect.

Invisibilia: Future Self

Furthermore, in my personal experience I’ve met graduate students who have faced similar identity crisis if they get close to graduation and realize that staying in academia is no longer something that they’re interested in anymore. While mental health is a very complex issue, my takeaway from these articles is that holding steadfast onto expectations of success may lead to negative pressures on one’s mental health.

Please see part 2 of this blog post in which I explore social media as a second affector of mental health.



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