Young people are now three times more likely to connect with friends online than to meet up in person, according to a new survey by teenage mental health charity stem4 to mark Youth Mental Health Day (19th September).
But lack of social connections in the real world, and pressure to look and behave a certain way online, have left half (50%) of young people saying they lack social confidence and that anxiety and fear of rejection are holding them back from making new friends.
Two-thirds (63%) of young people say they now use social media daily to connect with friends. This is while just one in three (28%) meet up with friends in person every day, four in ten (39%) weekly, and one in five (23%) monthly.
Could you quit social media to protect your mental health and well-being?
On Sunday, 26-year-old actor Tom Holland announced he had taken a social media break. This is because social media apps had become ‘detrimental’ to him as he would continue to read about himself online and ‘spiral’.
But unlike Tom, a third (32%) of the young people told the survey they cannot limit or reduce the amount of time they spend online, even if it would mean better overall physical and mental health.
‘There is an awful stigma against mental health, and I know that asking for help and seeking help isn’t something we should be ashamed of,’ the Spider-Man actor added.
Of the 2,007 young people surveyed ahead of Youth Mental Health Day, nearly half (46%) say they are currently experiencing mental health difficulties, of which three in ten (30%) have not dared to ask for help.
These difficulties are often compounded by feelings of loneliness (44%), being left out (39%), and isolation (33%) either all or most of the time. This has led many (44%), young people to say they struggle to make and maintain friendships.
In his video, Tom said he felt compelled to come on social media to talk about @stem4org, one of the many charities @thebrotherstrust is exceptionally proud to support. “I’d like to take a moment to shine a light on their fantastic work. Love to you all, and let’s talk about mental health.”
Shining a light: Youth Mental Health Day, 19th September
stem4’s Youth Mental Health Day (YMHD) will this year take place on Monday, 19th September, and the theme is #ConnectMeaningfully. Over the past few years, young people have had to experience many of their most formative experiences virtually, from joining a new school/college/university to celebrating a ‘big’ birthday.
Dr Nihara Krause, the consultant clinical psychologist, CEO, and founder of youth mental health charity stem4 commented: ‘The impact of the pandemic on social connections has a long-reaching effect. Social media can be a force for good, but this survey finds that there needs to be more balance in young people’s lives. Social media shouldn’t be used as a replacement for positive connections in the real world.’
‘What is positive from this survey is that young people want to make meaningful relationships. However, they are being held back by a fear of rejection and a lack of knowing how to make connections, particularly as they have missed out on two years of social experiences and developing post-pandemic social confidence.’
‘We want to change this by encouraging everyone to give young people opportunities starting with YMHD. This includes having meaningful peer and family conversations.’
‘Focusing on the importance of meaningful connections and having a solid support system, this year’s YMHD will invite young people across the country to reflect on how their relationships (with family, friends, educators) have changed over the past few years.’
‘stem4 has created several resources (including for educational establishments) and is asking everyone to share ideas and set goals of how young people can #ConnectMeaningfully, to ensure they are fostering relationships that will support and positively impact their mental health.’
Dr Nihara Krause continued: ‘We are incredibly grateful to Tom for taking a few moments to record a video and talk authentically about the importance of protecting your mental health; that it’s important to speak out even if it’s difficult; and that there are alternatives, such as our evidence-based apps, that you can use to start the journey towards feeling better.’