Too much social media time leads to depression, anxiety, experts say

Young people especially affected by social media use, according to psychologists

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – The prevalence of social media has led to people being more connected than ever. But studies show too much social media use has been linked to depression and anxiety, especially among young people.

Whether it's body goals, high-end fashion or major life milestones, images of perfection are everywhere on social media. 

"I unfollowed, unsubscribed, did all that to everything I was watching -- the fitness things, the supermodel things, the Victoria's Secret models," said social media user Stephanie Nathasingh, 18. 

Now, it seems there is good reason to unplug and step away from platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. 

New research shows America’s youngest adults, or Generation Z, are most susceptible to mental health issues stemming from excessive social media use. 

The most recent report from the American Psychological Association shows 45 percent of Gen Z'ers say social media makes them feel judged. A total of 38 percent say it makes them feel bad about themselves. 

"We know that there is an association between depression and social media use, and a lot of it is this so-called FOMO or fear of missing out," said psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Bober. 

Bober said while the technology has connected us with loved ones around the world, it has also left many with feelings of anxiety and isolation.

"People go on social media, they see their friends or their family on ski trips or they have a baby bump or they're reaching these milestones that they feel like they can't reach," Bober said.  

He calls it the Facebook fallacy.

"These people have the same struggles that you and I have, but they're only putting their best digital foot forward, if you will," Bober said. 

Nathasingh said it's too much. During a recent outing to the trendy Dior Cafe in Miami's Design District, she spent what should have been quality time instead taking pictures of her friends for their Instagram accounts. 

"We spent $60 on a bottle of water, a granola bowl and chocolate at Dior, and I just had to snap photos of them," Nathasingh said.

"Of them eating expensive granola?" Local 10's Amy Viteri asked.

"Oh yeah. Just to have, like, a lavish lifestyle," Nathasingh said.

Dr. Bober said pressure to be perfect can increase feelings of low self-esteem, especially among young people and those who are already vulnerable.

"I do think that when you look at things like depression and eating disorders and even school shootings -- while I don't think that social media is the cause of these things, I definitely think it is the fuel to the fire," he said.  

The obsession with social media has led some young people to shun it entirely, opting instead for old-fashioned phone calls and seeing friends in person. 

"It just becomes a big bubble and you just don't see past the bubble. You don't see what's going on. You don't see what's real and I think it just messes with people's minds," Bober said. 

Bober said it can benefit everyone to occasionally get off the grid, put down the phone and spend some actual face-to-face time with the people in your life. 

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