Student Studies the Impact of Media on Mental Health

Browsing through Brown University’s catalog of over 300 pre-college programs, Ashley Buckingham zeroed in on one topic that piqued her interest to spend her Martin Nicholson Scholar summer stipend: Media and Mental Health. “This topic spoke to me. I  wanted to become more aware of how social media impacts the image of ourselves and others and use it as a way to lessen my own social media usage and understand its impact,” she said.

One key takeaway that Buckingham learned was social media’s portrayal of artificial perfection. Many adolescents contend with body image concerns which can lead to increasingly alarming rates of eating disorders and self-harm she noted. “Some people use social media to a point where it’s very unhealthy, especially when girls see unrealistic portrayals of other girls in the media,” she said. She feels that there is still a stigma surrounding mental health and that many adolescents feel like they need to hide when they are struggling.

Buckingham became more cognizant of her own use of social media, primarily SnapChat, Instagram, and TikTok, and at times feels guilty for losing track of time when she’s on her device. Overall, she spends approximately three hours a day on social media but feels the time would be better served doing her homework and hanging out with her family and friends.  “I need to be more aware of the impact that it’s having and how much time I’m on it because you can easily get sucked into scrolling on it for a lot longer than you think or want,” she admitted. 

Social media and media, in general, is not all negative Buckingham believes. Social media allows her to connect with friends that she doesn’t get to see as often. During the second week of her class, she learned that video games can be very beneficial to older people since they can aid in individuals' reflexes, mental acuity, and cognitive processes.

Although Buckingham is unsure if she will pursue psychology as a degree when she is older, she feels we should all be educated about the impact of social media and our mental health.
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