Mental health is becoming an increasingly popular topic of conversation, especially when it comes to examining the effects of the constant influx of information due to technology.
Earlier this year, between Feb. 13 and May 8, the Royal Society for Public Health surveyed 1,500 young people ages 14 through 24. The survey asked how social media platforms affect 14 different areas of health. The health topics ranged from the amount and quality of sleep to feelings of loneliness and body image. The results showed that YouTube is the most positive for overall health while Instagram has the most detrimental effects.
This shouldn’t be particularly surprising to anyone, as the purpose of each platform hints at how they affect their users. YouTube allows people to document their lives, foster and share their creativity or enjoy other people doing so. Instagram, in some ways, does the same but in the form of imagery. However, the significant difference between the two lies in the fact that, while they’re both curated and edited, Instagram is less transparent. Videos are filled with jump cuts and advanced editing, and photos are more polished and retouched. YouTube, on the other hand, tends to show more realness, offering viewers full scenes rather than a single snapshot of one moment in someone’s day.
It’s also incredibly important to recognize the culture each platform has created. Instagram is viewed as a way to market your personal brand in a more focused way than YouTube. Whether you’re a social media influencer with a large following or a 16-year-old high school student, the end goal is generally the same—to display yourself in a way that will appeal to others, and maybe evoke a bit of FOMO in your followers.
Of course, it’s easy to see why this can take a toll on a person’s mental health.
In contrast, YouTube personalities have cultivated a culture in which it is important to be “real” and transparent. On one hand, this is simply the nature of vlogging, yet it also traces back to a history of controversy and awareness on the platform.
Lonelygirl15, for example, was a channel run by a girl named Bree who posted multiple videos a week about her life. She was one of the first popular vloggers, and people loved her. That is, until the entire production was uncovered to be fictional. Since then, the incident prompted a lot of discussion among content creators about authenticity and how it’s an integral part of protecting the integrity of YouTube.
Really, there’s a push among YouTubers to maintain honesty that isn’t nearly as apparent on Instagram. Body and sex positivity YouTubers have millions of subscribers. Popular YouTubers talk about personal experiences with breakups, mental illness or death. Videos like this can make an audience feel like they aren’t alone in their struggles. It can remove some of the isolation that an unhealthy mindset creates.
It would be unfair to say that doesn’t exist on Instagram as well, but there’s no question that the platform lacks honesty.