By Faye Wardell

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Have you ever found yourself feeling a bit under-accomplished and deflated after scrolling through your Instagram feed? Well… you’re not alone.

You wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is have a quick scroll through Instagram, snooping at everyone else’s life. So, before you’ve even started your day, you’re subjected to a rose-tinted version of what your life ‘should’ look like. Wasting your time scrolling through airbrushed versions of other people’s lives you’ve probably not even met. Forcing you to draw comparisons between your life and theirs, breeding jealousy, FOMO (fear of missing out) and insecurities – as we enter the new ‘compare and despair’ era.

According to the National Office of Statistics, 91% of 16-24-year olds access the internet for social networking. It’s no wonder, then, that rates of anxiety and depression have risen 70% in the last 25 years, with the younger generation being stuck on their phones, rather than living a true existence in ‘reality’.

With this being the first generation to be subjected to a complete distorted online version of life, what’re the long-term effects?

Already studies such as #sleepyteens are finding connections between social media use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, loneliness, poor sleep and relationship problems. Also, and possibly more alarming, Sage found that social media consumption is now being considered more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol.

What kind of example is social media setting to the younger generation – that the more followers you gain, the less actual work you’ll have to do in life? You can live an existence of living through your ‘ego’, being gifted all the niceties in life and earning enough money to live a certain lifestyle without actually gaining any qualifications.

It’s worrying that this is where society is heading, where people are more interested in whether their recent post got the right engagement and if they gained or lost followers. All in order to maybe one day get paid to pretend they used a product and creating false realities for other people to spiral down the road of self-destruct.

But, even being in the top of your Instagram game, you’ve new obstacles to overcome. Such as, the pressure to constantly upload at least twice a day and ‘look’ like you’ve got your life sorted, keeping up-to-date and posting current content, making sure you’re going to new places (no one likes to follow someone who only posts that they’re having coffee in bed) and the cyberbullying that comes along with it. It’s no wonder that the current high flyers on social media platforms keep coming out with posts about being overwhelmed and struggling with their mental health.

It’s been proven that being out in nature and physically socialising with others increases endorphins and in turn results in improving happiness and wellbeing. Yet, more and more we’re seeing young people stuck on a screen living through another dimension, worrying about their online presence, rather than actually living a happy existence.

It’s not all bad news, as social media is also said to positively assist self-identity, self-expression, community building and emotional support however, it’s hard to ignore the negatives, which far outweigh the positives.

This being said, social media isn’t about to disappear, if anything it’s due to grow and evolve so, is it time we start implementing online safety alerts for time spent on social media or disclaimers on reality and most importantly mental health support for those feeling overwhelmed.

For support on mental health issues contact Mind.