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Daily Lobo-Social Media Effect On Mental Health

Illustrated by Hannah Cerne.

The impact of social media use on college student mental health

Nine University of New Mexico students reported various effects to an anonymous survey conducted by the Daily Lobo on social media use and mental health. Whether these effects are negative or positive could depend on how people use social media, according to a UNM psychology professor.

Of nine UNM students who responded to the survey, 100% said they use some type of social media every day.

Of those students, seven believe social media has an impact on their mental health. The nature of that impact ranged from somewhat negative (with four respondents) to somewhat positive (with two respondents). Three students rated the impact as neutral.

The impact social media has may depend on how people are using it, Joshua Grubbs, an associate professor in the UNM Department of Psychology, said.

“What seems to matter most is what people do on social media and the reasons that they are using (it),” Grubbs said.

Using social media for connection and social life are indicators of a positive relationship with social media, if it supplements offline relationships and experiences, Grubbs said. 

“If someone is using social media as a part of their overall social life – using it to connect with and reach out to people in addition to meaningful relationships in-person and involvement in the offline world – then it’s probably a good thing,” Grubbs said.

Routine use of social media with no emotional connection to it may have positive effects on social well-being, mental health and self-rated health, according to a study published in “Health Education & Behavior.”

Social media can have a negative impact when people use it in “more toxic ways,” Grubbs said.

“Either constantly comparing themselves to others or ‘doom-scrolling’ and obsessing over negative news, it’s probably going to affect them negatively,” Grubbs said. 

About half of U.S. adults receive the news from social media “sometimes” or “often,” according to Pew Research Center.

Negative mental health effects can also result from excessive social media use, which involves increased monitoring and frequency of checking social media sites, according to a study published in the “International Journal of Cyber Behavior, Psychology and Learning.”

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Excessive social media use can cause individuals to decrease their physical activity and face-to-face communication – both of which are protective factors against depression, according to the study. Exposure to “overwhelming (amounts of) information” and self-other comparisons are also dangers of excessive social media use, according to the study.

“All in all, there isn’t a simple one-size-fits-all narrative for social media,” Grubbs said.

Arly Garcia is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @DailyLobo

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