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Social media is a “collective term for websites and applications that focus on communication, community-based input, interaction, content-sharing, and collaboration.” According to the Pew Research Center, social media is nearly ubiquitous in the lives of teenagers as many rely on social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, etc.) to find and connect with each other. Social media can have a significant impact on teen mental health, particularly when it comes to the pervasive issue of social comparison. Here are several ways in which social media comparison can affect the mental well-being of teenagers:

  • Unrealistic Standards and Body Image:
    • Social media platforms often showcase idealized and filtered images of people, leading to unrealistic beauty standards. Teens may feel pressured to conform to these standards, negatively impacting their body image and self-esteem.
    • Constant exposure to images of “perfect” bodies can contribute to body dissatisfaction, potentially leading to disordered eating behaviors and other mental health concerns.
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO):
    • Social media can create a fear of missing out on social events, experiences, or opportunities. Teens may feel excluded or left out when they see their peers participating in activities that they were not invited to, leading to feelings of loneliness and inadequacy.
  • Comparison with Peers:
    • Teens often compare themselves to their peers based on the content shared on social media. This constant comparison can lead to feelings of inferiority, jealousy, and low self-worth.
    • Achievements, appearance, and lifestyles portrayed on social media may not reflect the reality of individuals’ lives, but teens may still perceive them as benchmarks for success and happiness.
  • Cyberbullying:
    • Social media provides a platform for cyberbullying, which can have severe consequences for teen mental health. Negative comments, harassment, or exclusion on social media platforms can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.
    • The anonymity provided by online platforms may embolden individuals to engage in harmful behaviors they might not engage in face-to-face.
  • Validation-Seeking Behavior:
    • Teens may engage in validation-seeking behavior on social media, relying on likes, comments, or shares for a sense of self-worth. The constant need for external validation can contribute to anxiety and stress.
    • Lack of validation or negative responses on social media may intensify feelings of rejection and exacerbate existing mental health challenges.
  • Distorted Reality and Comparison with Influencers:
    • Teens often follow influencers and celebrities on social media whose lifestyles may be unattainable. Comparing one’s own life to these curated and often unrealistic portrayals can lead to feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction.
    • Understanding the difference between curated online personas and real-life experiences is crucial for maintaining a healthy perspective.
  • Sleep Disruption and Online Pressure:
    • Teens may experience sleep disruption due to excessive use of social media, especially late at night. The pressure to stay connected and respond to notifications can interfere with healthy sleep patterns, contributing to mood disturbances and fatigue.

Addressing the impact of social media on teen mental health involves promoting digital literacy, encouraging open communication, and fostering a healthy online environment. Parents, educators, and mental health professionals can play a crucial role in helping teens navigate social media by promoting a realistic understanding of online content, teaching resilience, and emphasizing the importance of self-worth independent of online validation. Additionally, promoting positive online behaviors and addressing issues such as cyberbullying are essential steps in mitigating the negative impact of social media on teen mental health.

For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. 

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives. 


We are available to answer any questions you may have regarding mental health treatment and our residential program, anytime. Contact us today using the form to the right.

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