The impact of social media on young adults

In the contemporary landscape of early adulthood, social media has become an omnipresent force, profoundly influencing the experiences and mental health of young adults. As they navigate this crucial stage of life, the pressures and challenges introduced by social media can significantly shape their psychological well-being.


This article delves into the various ways social media impacts young adults, particularly in terms of social anxiety and depression, and explores how counselling, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), can provide vital support.

Social media and the idealised self

Social media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, are designed to showcase the best moments of users' lives. While this can be a source of inspiration, it also fosters an environment where young adults are constantly exposed to idealised versions of others' lives.

This phenomenon, often referred to as 'social comparison', can lead to feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction. When young adults perceive that they are unable to "have it all" – be it the perfect job, body, relationship, or lifestyle – the resultant pressure can be overwhelming.

The pressure to perform

Early adulthood is a period characterised by significant transitions, including entering higher education, starting careers, and forming serious relationships. The added layer of social media can exacerbate the stress associated with these transitions.

Young adults may feel compelled to present a curated version of their lives that aligns with societal expectations, fearing judgment if they fall short. This constant performance can contribute to heightened levels of social anxiety, as individuals worry about being scrutinised by their peers.

The toll on mental health

The relentless comparison and pressure to perform can have serious repercussions on mental health. Numerous studies have linked heavy social media use with increased rates of depression and anxiety among young adults. The constant bombardment of images and posts highlighting others' successes can make individuals feel isolated and inferior, fuelling a cycle of negative self-perception. This can lead to a pervasive sense of not being 'enough', which is detrimental to one's self-esteem and overall mental health.

The role of counselling

In the face of these challenges, counselling can offer a lifeline to young adults struggling with the pressures of social media. Counselling provides a safe space for individuals to explore their feelings and develop strategies to cope with social anxiety and depression.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is particularly effective in this regard. CBT helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns that contribute to feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth. By learning to reframe these thoughts and focus on their intrinsic value, young adults can build resilience against the harmful effects of social comparison.

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), although traditionally used to treat trauma, can also be beneficial. EMDR helps individuals process distressing memories and experiences that may be contributing to their current mental health issues. For young adults, this could involve addressing past experiences of bullying or rejection that are exacerbated by social media interactions. By reprocessing these memories, EMDR can help reduce their emotional impact, enabling individuals to engage with social media in a healthier manner.

Building a healthier relationship with social media

Beyond therapeutic interventions, developing a healthier relationship with social media is crucial. Young adults can benefit from setting boundaries around their social media use, such as limiting screen time and curating their feeds to include content that promotes positive well-being. Mindfulness practices can also help individuals become more aware of how social media affects their emotions, allowing them to make more conscious choices about their engagement.

Education around media literacy is another vital component. Understanding that social media often presents a distorted reality can help young adults approach it with a more critical eye, reducing the impact of negative comparisons.

Social media undoubtedly plays a significant role in shaping the experiences of young adults as they navigate early adulthood. While it offers opportunities for connection and self-expression, it also imposes considerable pressures that can lead to social anxiety and depression. Counselling, particularly through modalities like CBT and EMDR, provides essential support, helping individuals develop healthier coping mechanisms and build resilience. By fostering a more balanced relationship with social media, young adults can better navigate the challenges of early adulthood and focus on their personal growth and well-being.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Written by Hope Therapy & Counselling Services, Counselling, CBT, EMDR, Hypnotherapy, Mindfulness.
London W9 & SE19

Hope Therapy & Counselling Services are dedicated to providing comprehensive and compassionate mental health and wellbeing support to individuals, couples, and families. Our team of experienced and qualified counsellors & therapists are committed to helping clients navigate life's challenges and achieve personal growth and well-being.

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