ePeer Pressure

 Need to be available online is causing anxiety & depression in young people

Your phone vibrates. It’s midnight and it’s your best pals messaging you to come out. “C’monnn! Don’t be boring!”, they say as you unlock your phone and shit, the app opens, you’ve seen the message. It’s social media, they know you’ve seen it, so you’d better respond or you’ll be, well you know, boring. I’m pretty sure anyone with Whatsapp or Facebook messenger or internet access in general has been through this scenario at least once.

A recent study by the Glasgow University psychology department has concluded that peer pressure to be available 24/7 on social media platforms is causing problems not only for teenagers’ physical health, but their mental health as well. The urge to stay up late messaging coupled with blue light from screens is leading to sleep deprivation, which is one of the main factors attributed to anxiety and depression.  Mental health nurses recommend leaving your phone out of your bedroom, as there is temptation to log on social media as a way to fall asleep. This obviously doesn’t work; constantly refreshing Twitter isn’t going to make you Sleeping Beauty, and to be the honest the only ‘tweeting’ you’re going to get at 5:00AM is the sound of real-life morning birds.

From my own experience social media can be a loaded gun of peer pressure. There is an overwhelming need to reply urgently to messages, whilst also experiencing frustration and panic when others don’t reply quickly. Group chats can feel like a battleground with everyone trying to outdo each other with their ‘top patter’.  And apps that let you know when a person is active and when a message has been ‘seen’ are perfect grounds for anxiety to flourish. Dr Helen Cleland Woods, a lead researcher at the University stated: “It’s okay not to be available 24/7. It’s okay to actually withdraw & have some downtime”. However, while turning off your phone for a night is easy, actually switching off those anxiety notifications in your head is another message entirely.  A message that’s been delivered, but they haven’t replied yet.  

[Emma McKie]

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