Written by Sara Macauley : Photographs by Pixelfit

“Social media has taken over the world! With the latest research showing that approximately 66 percent of the adult population in the U.K are active users of social media, it’s a no brainer that scrolling through our phones in our spare time is bound to have an effect on our mental health.”

Social media has taken over the world! With the latest research showing that approximately 66 percent of the adult population in the U.K are active users of social media, it’s a no brainer that scrolling through our phones in our spare time is bound to have an effect on our mental health.

But is this effect ultimately positive or negative? It’s a tricky subject – and one that divides most of us. We’ve all heard of people having a ‘social media cleanse’ and deleting apps like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram off their phones only to re-download them shortly after. Why do we do this?

It’s probably something to do with the sheer accessibility of other people’s opinions and lives but sometimes, it can get a bit too much. Never before have we been so connected to people from completely different circles of life, but are we really connected or is it simply an illusion?

Millennials are constantly being warned of the negative effects of social media, with the likes of World-renowned sex therapist Dr Ruth Westheimer claiming that ‘social media is making us lonely’.

In an interview with The Independent in June of this year, Dr. Ruth suggested that as a result of social media, people are losing the art of conversation. “They’re constantly on their iPhones. You see the couples sit sown in restaurants both with their phone on the table,” she said.

Go to any café, and you can see that Dr. Ruth’s comments aren’t far from the truth. Before we drink our Matchalatte’s, it’s become almost mandatory to take a quick snap to put on Instagram later. While some, like Dr. Ruth, argue that this obsession with social media is interfering in real life connection, others argue that the online world is bringing us closer together than ever before. Apps like Bumble BFF have been created to help us lonely creatures connect with others in a world where everyone in real life seems just too busy to stop and chat. Facebook has long been connecting old school friends and past work colleagues and acting as the gateway to re-kindling old friendships. Instagram has even become a career for some people, who use their following on the app to earn money and make a living posting content they love. So can we really say that social media is standing in the way of real human connection? I don’t think so.

The recent #StatusOfMind report which saw 1479 young people between the ages of 17 and 24 offer their opinion on social media found that those with mental health problems regularly cite social media as a positive thing. If used correctly, social media can be a great tool for allowing us to express ourselves emotionally, engage with and learn from cultural conversations and build communities.

It’s not about social media platforms being intrinsically good or evil, but the way and amount which we consume the content at our fingertips is the thing that really matters. As with everything, there’s good and bad to be found when you take a microscope to social media. If you find that scrolling through Instagram is a nice distraction from problems in your own life, then great – keep scrolling, but if how other people are portraying their lives, if making you feel decidedly inept, then find another way to pass your time. Either way, knowing if and when you need to have a digital detox is important too, Like most things in life, when it comes to social media – it’s all about balance.