Combatting Cyberbullying, Depression, and Suicides
Bradley De Filippis
5th November 2022
Social media has grown a lot within these last few years. Did you know 72% of people in the United States now uses social media (Social Media and Mental Health: Depression and psychological effects 15 October 2022) It can be the best thing that has happened to society as far as staying in touch with friends and family. Having a place online that you can upload all of your memories to, and having the assurance that they are all in one location. It can be a very powerful tool to have at the palm of your hands with the keys at your fingertips. With great power comes responsibility, that unfortunately some people are unwilling to respect. There are many different forms that can lead someone to depression or even suicide, did you know cyberbullying in one of the top listed? This brings me to my first question. How does social media have a negative effect on all user's mental health but elevated cases of depression, suicides, and bullying? It has quite a bit when it comes to someone's depression as well as suicide?
In regards to this subject I hope to reach out to those who are seeking enlightenment on the effects that cyberbullying on social media can cause us. As somebody who has been a victim of cyberbullying, this subject hits very close to home with me. When I was younger I was bullied for multiple reasons, one of them being for my weight and being the new kid in Arizona. The cyber-bulling did not make school any easier for me, being bullied at school and online caused me to get to the point where I went to online school to finish out my high school years. This took away all of the experiences I could have had and memories I should have had. I made it seem like I was okay for a few weeks before it just broke me mentally and I could not handle it anymore. This brought on depression more than I already had from my father passing months prior. Social media is supposed to be a place where you can vent, story tell about your day or life goals, post pictures, etc. Instead it has turned into something a lot of people refuse to use because of all the drama and chaos that comes along with using it. Thinking back do you ever wonder why on Facebook you have people that you went to school with but never were really socially friends with? I think about that too sometimes. Why is it that most people have accepted or sent a friend request to their school bully's now that we are adults? Possibly because we want that closure, or to feel accepted because our younger self never was we stive to be accepted.
Missing out on things is something no one wants to do; especially young adults. Fear of missing out is a form of social anxiety that makes you fearful that you are missing out on something . This can have a huge negative effect on your mental health. We tend to crave acceptance and fear when we are not invited to do something or involved, in the case of social media we fear not being put in the spot light and showered with likes and positive comments. It has become a lot worse since social media has become popular.
Young adults tend to focus on social media more than ever these past few years. Applications such as Facebook, Twitter and Tik Tok are rising in users every day. The users on the applications are more focused on being accepted into the online community's and the rise of their fallowers they can miss out on many things in life. They fear not being invited into group chats or getting likes and comments on their post. When a study was done they study stated: For instance, adolescents may develop a fear of missing (important) events when they are not online: Fear of Missing out (FoMO). This phenomenon can be defined as a desire to be online and a constant urge to check social media. (Abel et al., 2016 ; Przybylski et al., 2013). However, well they are so focused on missing out on something online real life is just passing them by and they do not even realize it. They are missing out on family functions, traveling, personal contact with friends, and being close to other human body's. The saying "It isn't what it looks like" is very much the case when it comes to social media. When looking at someone's social media page who you may not even know, it can look like they are financially stable and able to do as they please. Seeing the post of people traveling to places , smiling, laughing and buying beautiful things it can make you wish you could do the same. This can also cause fear that you are missing out on all the things that they have and can do. A smile behind a picture or a video may not always be a true smile, depression has many faces. Seeing these post can cause someone to become depressed or have anxiety that they are not living up to their expectations.
People need to have human interaction that isn't hidden behind a phone screen. We as people need to be around others to maintain a health mindset. When it comes to social media and all of the fancy application they have people tend to just keep their eyes on their cell phone when interacting with other. Think back how many times have you been in a room with others and looked around the room to find more than half the room disengaged and on their phones. The more we prioritize social media the less we see of human interactions but a incline in depression and anxiety.
A 2018 British study tied social media use to decreased, disrupted, and delayed sleep, which is associated with depression, memory loss, and poor academic performance. (The social dilemma: Social media and your mental health). When being rejected on social media this can cause us to have depression because now we are not accepts in our day to day lives, but also online. Depression and anxiety creep in on you unknown when spending most of your time online. In my personal experience, when I was addicted to the application Tik-Tok I only found joy in the application. I would be up all hours of the night scrolling, and when spending time with the family I would be on my phone. When being off from it I was anxious and depressed wondering why I wasn't accepted like I was online. Since breaking my addiction to the application I have found myself happier and more involved. There are many factors that can cause depression and anxiety, but when being on social media there is a great chance of being cyber-bullied. Being cyber-bullied can cause a dramatic increase in depression. This is one of the largest issues social media has that cannot be contained. In my next paragraph we will be talking about the effect cyber-bulling on social media has caused on many people.
Cyber-bulling has a huge impact on most teenagers and young adults. About 10 percent of teens report being bullied on social media and many other users are subjected to offensive comments. (Social Media and Mental Health para. 11). It can be easy to cyber-bully someone behind a keyboard under a fake name, this can cause the victim depression and often suicidal though. Cyber-bullying is a real problem in the United States, one that we have yet to subside. 73 percent of students felt they were bullied in their lifetime, and 44 percent say it's happened in the last 30 days. It should come as no surprise that cyber-bullying has become a major issue. (All the latest cyberbullying statistics 2022).
With the population growing imagine the increase in social media bullying. Some major applications that are riddled with cyber-bully's include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik-Tok, Snapchat and gaming networks. These applications are top rated and are used by many people of all age ranges. Although these applications have age requirements, this does not mean a child will not download and use these. This can cause a younger child to be traumatized early on in life. Cyber-bullying has caused many issues online and seems to be an everlasting. Being the victim of cyber-bullying can cause emotional scars that fallow a person for the rest of their lives, sometimes it can go beyond emotional scares it can be physical scars. This can be one of the worst case scenarios when it comes to being bullied. As we grow older we tend to either detach from emotional abuse we received as younger adults or we can hyper focus on them. These traumas last in our brains for years and sometimes they do not let go. An unfortunate amount of victims of cyber-bullying tend to hyper focus instead of letting go and turn to self-harm.
The cyberbullying that happens on social media increases the self-harm rates more each year. The rate of non-suicidal self-injury ranges between 14% and 21% among young people. (Memon et al. The role of online social networking on deliberate self-harm and suicidality in adolescents: A systematized review of literature Para 1). When someone gets bullied to a point they feel like there is no way to combat the negative thoughts they have they tend to lean towards an outlet that can make them feel in control. When their mental health takes a turn for the worse they look for a way to feel better, when all else fails extreme measures are taken. Weather this be harmful or not people just want to feel something. When you are unable to control this feeling, you find a way and this usually results in inflicting wounds on yourself also known as self-harm.
Social media is known for cyber-bulling, unfortunately the bully does not usually stop attacking the victim causing them to feel hopeless and alone. When the victim reaches out for help though their family or law enforcement they are usually turned away since it turn into a he said she said matter, this causes the victim to feel even more alone and hopeless then they did prior to seeking help. When someone feels alone and helpless they only have themselves and their thoughts to turn to. This will bring me to my next point, which is when someone who has inflicted self-harm thinks they need to just "end it all" to get away from all the negative thoughts these social media cyber-bullies have caused them. When the victim feels as if self-harm just isn't enough they may learn towards suicide and since no one is listening to them their chances of success on this are very high.
The next topic about the navigate effects social media has on an individual is suicide. Social media is a huge part of our lives and younger people are being more invested with these social media applications. However, the use of social media can cause great impacts on our future generations lives. Among bullying at school now due to social media these bully's can continue to harass there victims online leaving them no escape. When it comes to our younger generation they tend to have a desire to be perfect and accepted, they lean to social networking to gain that acceptance and when they are turned away and shot down they become depressed and lonely. Once depression sets in you could be in a room full of people and feel so alone that you feel empty.
When self-harm doesn't seem to be enough suicide is usually the next option the individual choose. It's crazy to think that someone else's option of us can make our lives spiral into the chaos it does, all lives matter and no one should feel as if suicide is their only choice. When we take a look at our life's no matter our age, race, or religious background all we are looking for is acceptance and understanding. According to the CDC and other public health organizations, the rate of teen suicides increased more then 30% between 2007 and 2015, which coincides with a similarly increasing rate of social media use among this age group. (Social media linked to rising teen suicide rates). Unfortunately if the victim is successful with their attempt it will affect all of their loved ones, causing a ripple effect of Greif. How is it that social media can be so harmful to our children and not reap the consequences or take ownership of their actions?
To further understand the effects social media can cause on an individual I took it upon myself to interview six different people to gain more knowledge. What I found was that most of the individuals were all cyber-bullied at one point in their life's. Most expressed that they felt hopeless and isolated, causing them to seek mental help for the depression that was washing over them. When asking them how they felt when they were unable to log into their application they stated they had anxiety and fear that they lost all of their content they saved in there cloud , or that they would miss an event they had planned on a Facebook group. I learned that people heavily relied on their applications and didn't care about the negative effects that it could cause.
One person I had interviewed expressed the extreme issues they had faced online. They stated cyber-bulling was the begging of their experience but it lead them to police reports and fear. She stated that when she broke up with her partner they gathered a group of individuals online to harass and bully her. They leaked her personal information and threatened to go to her home, this caused her fear on extreme levels and anxiety to the point of her uprooting her whole life to move. Unfortunately it did not stop there, she had moved her family 2000 plus miles away and was found by one of the bully. Safety is not a topic I had covered but is a major issue online.
Keeping your personal information online safe is a hard task to do. With all the new technology and applications the smallest bit of information leaked out can be harmful. It can put your safety at risk, anyone could obtain that information and show up to your location. Application such as Snap Chat and Facebook put a pin point on your location when you make post if you have your location set to on , on your Mobil phone. A post as simple as "grabbing coffee" could put your life in someone else hands. Always be safe and watch what you are posting, never make yourself more vulerable.
In conclusion, I hope to have provided you with more visibility on the topic of fear of missing out, depression and anxiety, cyberbullying, self-harm as well as suicide increase's over the years because of social media. We even touched a little bit on how unsafe social media can be. Social media has caused chaos in our lives for many years, how we handle it is what matters the most. There are outreach programs and phone number to help combat the effects that social media and cyber-bulling cause. We have gone over the topics I have listed above, however, social media can cause more impacts on our lives then just those few topics listed. The hope is that this paper will help prevent and inform you of these tragic issues our younger generations are going to have to face.
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