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How social media is affecting Forsyth County students' mental health
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According to a study by the Pew Research Center, at least 95 percent of teens report that they have a smartphone or access to one.

Editor's note: This article was written by Forsyth Central High School's journalism class in partnership with the Forsyth County News.

By Christina Cannady, Ashleigh Stemple and Jennefer Ruiz

Social media applications such as Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook have become a large part of society.

But some Forsyth County high school counselors say they are bombarded by students with complaints of anxiety from social media, whether they are linked to bullying, peers’ judgment or “life envy.”

Rafael Santiago, a counselor at Forsyth Central High School, said he also sees students “pretty much every day” with anxiety issues stemming from social media.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, at least 95 percent of teens report that they have a smartphone or access to one, and 45 percent of teens say that they are online on a near-constant basis, browsing the internet and their social media profiles.

About 30 percent of people that have and use social media accounts spend more than 15 hours a week online, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Excessive social media use not only causes anxiety and depression, but it also has the potential to cause attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to the ADAA.

Alexandra Ashcraft, a student at Central, said she knows several classmates who were troubled by their online demons.

“I think that some people are just naturally self-conscious,” Ashcraft said. “Many people my age are extremely worried about how they are perceived. I do think that some kids hop on that bandwagon and begin to use social media unhealthfully.”

Monal Nabulsi, a counselor at Central, said excessive social media use can have an effect on students’ self-esteem.

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“You’re always comparing yourself to other people’s experiences, even though they’re not portrayed as authentic,” Nabulsi said. “Everybody only puts their best self on social media.”

These self-esteem issues seem to suck students into further social media use.

“I see students daily regarding issues from social media,” said Jody Glude, a counselor at Little Mill Middle School. “I think the most common issue I deal with regarding social media is probably cyberbullying. Students posting mean comments about other students, particularly Snapchat; those tend to spread rapidly. It’s difficult for students to focus in class when they’re worried about what kind of Snapchat images … are going [around].”

Glude also talked about situations on social media involving self-mutilation.

“Students tend to get ideas about self-harm, like cutting,” Glude said. “They can see that others are doing great [as they’re] coping through self-harm and then sort of emulate that.”

With students always having their phones with them, it’s hard to stay away from social media. Students feel like they always have to check their phones and see what other people are posting and talking about. It can be hard to be present in the real world when students are focused on their online personas.

“They can’t get away from it,” said Kyleigh Swanburg, another counselor at Central. “It’s always on their phones; it’s always following them, and it’s hard to detach from that.”