- Social media is impacting the physical and mental health of young Indians.
- Steps must be taken to regulate social media-use and address its health implications.
Social media is known to severely impact the mental health of young Indians.
Research shows that 97.2 million and 69 million Indian users, aged 18–24 years, spend at least 2.4 hours a day on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc.
This alarming dependency on a shifting, virtual world often comes accompanied by mental health challenges posed by cyberbullying, validation, etc. A UNICEF survey has linked depression to 1 in 7 young Indians, and one of the attributing factors as social media.
Social media has triggered body image issues, eating disorders, ‘fitness’ obsession, poor self-esteem, and other maladaptive behaviors. It has also espoused the display of ‘posh’ lifestyles and online swindling.
The algorithm used in it keeps people showing the same content and damaging their mental health more. For instance, studies show how body dysmorphia, anorexia, and bulimia are increasingly caused by unreal body standards flaunted across social media platforms.
However, experts suggest that if social media is used optimally, it can actually reap healthier outcomes. A recent example is how India created online guides for medical resources during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A public health advocate, Dr. Sukriti Chauhan, writing for The Indian Express, says “The power of a tool is only as good as how we use it.”
Given the circumstances, we must take on the health implications of social media seriously, monitoring the risks and resilience involved in social media use by pre-teens and teenagers.
Experts suggest that there is a need to conduct frequent and detailed surveys processing in factors like youth demography, social media- and technology- use, class, gender, sex, health, etc. There is also a need to develop policies, programs, therapeutic interventions, support systems, campaigns, and workspace and educational frameworks addressing India’s mental health.