UVM prof: Social media can have harmful effects on mental health of young people

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Social media can be a great tool for connecting with loved ones and sharing memories, but when can it become too much, and negatively impact a person’s mental health?

The average person spends a few hours each day on social media platforms and experts say that’s because they’re designed to keep you hooked.

“The algorithms aren’t designed to make your life better, they’re set up for engagement,” said UVM professor Matthew Dugan.

Dugan teaches ‘social media theory at UVM and says apps such as Instagram typically show the best parts of a person’s day. He says it’s not always what it seems, which can lead to issues around mental health.

“Highly edited video with particular filters,” he said. “There’s a lot of research how people who are heavy social media users compare themselves to those people and find their lives lacking.”

“They just portray themselves as someone they’re completely not,” said UVM freshman Lucas Leon. “That’s just super harmful to their mental health.”

Many young people look for a sense of validation from social media and often become fixated on the number of likes.

“When I was younger, maybe high school middle school it was something I really cared about,” said Lucy Powell, freshman at UVM. “Something I was really pressured, felt like I had to get a lot of likes, post the perfect picture. But as I got older, I can post for myself and just share what I’m doing.”

Dugan says UVM created a ‘thrive guide’ to help students with disconnect and emotional stress.

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