When you scroll through the internet, you’re bombarded by images and videos that comprise the totality of our collected experiences. There can be no denying that this content affects each of us differently, but understanding this relationship between media and the psyche requires more than simply looking at how much screen time people usually get on a daily basis. It requires looking at what content is being put out there and how that content affects each person.
That may seem like a massive undertaking, but researchers have already started to examine this relationship. It seems to have become an accepted fact that the internet is a catalyst for mental illness in millions of people and a study released by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health seems to confirm that belief. Examining adults ranging in ages from 18 to 65, the research team determined that adults who use a dating app are at a higher risk for developing serious eating disorders. Even though dating apps do help people connect, they also create an environment in which users feel more critical of themselves and others. In addition to eating disorders, the study revealed that dating app users are also more likely to encounter body shaming, discrimination, and racism.
Women who use dating apps are up to 26.9 times more likely to develop bad habits in relation to weight control. In particular, the researchers found that women in these situations were more likely to fast, induce vomiting, or use drugs to manage their weight. Men were also susceptible to these practices. Men who use dating apps are 14.6 times more likely to use steroids and follow unsafe weight management practices.
This study doesn’t suggest that dating apps are directly causing eating disorders, but the research does suggest that there is a link between social media use and mental illness. In previous studies, researchers have found that both teens and adults are negatively affected by their use of social media websites. Instances of depression and anxiety have risen as social media use has become more popular. Researchers believe one reason for this may be that social media isn’t producing the results people expect. When they don’t get the “likes” or comments on their posts, their emotional state can be affected by feelings of criticism or rejection. As more studies look at the relationship between social media and emotional health, we may find proof that the content we view online does affect our overall mental wellness.