More downtime and time spent at home due to COVID-19 contributed to a rise in social media use. In 2020 social media usage by Americans increased by an average of seven minutes compared to usage in 2019 – the year before the onset of the pandemic.8 In general, individuals appear to be more passive in social media participation – meaning that actively posting stayed the same or slightly decreased, but the time spent scrolling social media increased for most individuals.
While some students use social media as an escape or method to pass the time during periods of social isolation, others may utilize social media to receive information about the outside world while isolating.
So, where exactly does social media usage contribute to problems? Well, some social media users reported extremes in usage. This means that individuals had long periods of extended scrolling, which contributed to feelings of anxiety or even depression, followed by decisions to end their personal social media usage altogether.8 Many individuals decide to detox from social media due to the damage various social media platforms can have on mental health. In recent years, research has made it evident that there is a link between social media usage and mental health. At its core, social media is designed for virality and addiction, making it easy for students to become stuck in the loop of constantly scrolling for hours.9
During a period of social isolation when students may already be vulnerable to intensified symptoms of mental health conditions, negative thoughts and feelings can be compounded further by increased social media use. Many individuals report that social media usage increase feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. In addition, individuals reported that scrolling on social media for longer periods of time negatively impacted self-esteem and contributed to problems with concentration.9
As mentioned previously, some individuals may make the decision to suspend their social media screen time after feeling the negative impact on their mental health. However, the reality is that while a majority of individuals may recognize the toll social media has taken on their mental health, they choose to continue consuming social media content on a regular basis.