If you thought millennials care more about selfies than they do self-care, well, you thought wrong.
On the contrary, Instagram engagement has been in free fall since May this year as young people becoming increasingly aware of its damaging impact on mental health, according to a new study looking into the social media habits of young Australians.
The study surveyed more than 2000 Australians, aged between 18 to 30, spanning across gender, socio-economic groups and religions.
It found that 28 per cent believe good mental health is the measure of success, while only 2 per cent feel the same about having a large social media following, despite being oft-painted as a tech-obsessed (and self-obsessed) generation.
So are all the warnings about social media and mental health sinking in? Maybe. “There is a continual stream of information being fed to us about the isolating effects of spending too much time on social media and the health benefits of having friends and family around you,” the study reads.
On this note, the research also found young Australians have a “genuine fear” of being lonely. Despite being constantly connected and surrounded by people, one in five were concerned about ending up alone. Furthermore, half were passionate about having strong relationships – nearly the same amount as prioritised having fun (47%).
When it comes to feeling passionate about strong relationships and looking after their mental health, women ranked higher than their male counterparts. And while falling in love, getting married and having friends were all regarded as contributing to success, these were not seen as measures in and of themselves.
So why the change of heart? Social media, and platforms like Instagram in particular, are continuously and increasingly being called out for their impact on body image and mental health. Which is, in part, why the latter announced earlier this year it would be trialling the removal of likes to banish feelings of “competition”.
On the other hand, we know nearly a quarter of millennials report feeling ‘always’ lonely, marking them the loneliest generation, compared to previous baby boomers and Gen X-ers. As a result, perhaps young people are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that social media interaction is not comparable to (or a healthy replacement for) real human interaction.
The study reads: “We need to drop the idea that young people don’t understand priorities or know what’s best for them in the real world. This data paints a very clear picture of a group that is aware and ‘woke’.”
In other words, mental health and healthy relationships have never been cooler. Which begs the question: Is this the beginning of the end for Instagram?