Impact of Social Media on Mental Health

  • Steven K. PoonEmail author
  • Laura E. Sudano


Social media and Social Networking Sites (SNS) represent an area of rapid advancement in digital communication, with direct impact on the lives and communication strategies of athletes. SNS allow for a high degree of connectivity with relative ease. Frequency of social media use and preferred applications tend to differ by age. Younger athletes are more likely to engage in social networks and are specifically at risk for negative effects of social media use. While social networking improves interconnectivity, activity enhancement, and exercise encouragement, it can also lead to issues of cyberbullying, harassment, and depression. Direct access afforded to athletes puts them at risk for being targeted by the public. Harassment and associated emotional distress are amplified due to the ease of publicly available through social media communication. This chapter reviews the present information available on rates of cyberbullying and resulting mental and emotional distress and the impact on athlete’s mental health and well-being. The benefits of social media are also explored with a focus on how collegiate athletic departments can help student-athletes use social media safely and effectively.


Student-athletes  Collegiate athletes  Mental health  Social media  Social networking 


  1. 1.
    Boyd DM, Ellison NB. Social network sites: definition, history, and scholarship. J Comput Mediat Commun. 2007;13(1):210–30. Scholar
  2. 2.
    Steinfield C, Ellison NB, Lampe C. Social capital, self-esteem, and use of online social network sites: a longitudinal analysis. J Appl Dev Psychol. 2008;29(6):434–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Social media use in 2018. Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. March 2018. Accessed 16 May 2018.
  4. 4.
    DeShazo K. 2016 Social media use of student athletes [infographic]. 2016. Accessed 23 June 2018.
  5. 5.
    van Geel M, Vedder P, Tanilon J. Relationship between peer victimization, cyberbullying, and suicide in children and adolescents: a meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatr. 2014;168(5):435–42.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    O'Keeffe GS, Clarke-Pearson K. Council on Communications and Media. The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families. Pediatrics. 2011;127(4):800–4.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bell L, Witford M. Social and environmental risk factors - interpersonal violence and the student-athlete population. In: Brown GT, Hainline B, Kroshus E, Wilfert M, editors. Mind, body, and sport, understanding and supporting student-athlete mental wellness. Indianapolis: NCAA Publications; 2014. p. 86–95.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Online harassment 2017. Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. July 2017. Accessed 16 May 2018.
  9. 9.
    Lin LY, Sidani JE, Shensa A, Radovic A, Miller E, Colditz JB, et al. Association between social media use and depression among U.S. young adults. Depress Anxiety. 2016;33(4):323–31.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Kross E, Verduyn P, Demiralp E, Park J, Lee DS, Lin N, Shablack H, Jonides J, Ybarra O. Facebook use predicts declines in subjective well-being in young adults. PLoS One. 2013;8(8):e69841. Scholar
  11. 11.
    Fox J, Moreland JJ. The dark side of social networking sites: an exploration of the relational and psychological stressors associated with Facebook use and affordances. Comput Hum Behav. 2015;45:168–76. Scholar
  12. 12.
    de Vries DA, Kühne R. Facebook and self-perception: individual susceptibility to negative social comparison on Facebook. Personal Individ Differ. 2015;86:217–21. Scholar
  13. 13.
    Tiggemann M, Zaccardo M. “Exercise to be fit, not skinny”: the effect of fitspiration imagery on women's body image. Body Image. 2015;15:61–7. Scholar
  14. 14.
    Shochat T, Cohen-Zion M, Tzischinsky O. Functional consequences of inadequate sleep in adolescents: a systematic review. Sleep Med Rev. 2014;18(1):75–87.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Pigeon WR, Bishop TM, Krueger KM. Insomnia as a precipitating factor in new onset mental illness: a systematic review of recent findings. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017;19(8):44. Scholar
  16. 16.
    Kalmbach DA, Arnedt JT, Song PX, Guille C, Sen S. Sleep disturbance and short sleep as risk factors for depression and perceived medical errors in first-year residents. Sleep. 2017;40(3)
  17. 17.
    Robillard R, Hermens DF, Lee RS, Jones A, Carpenter JS, White D, et al. Sleep-wake profiles predict longitudinal changes in manic symptoms and memory in young people with mood disorders. J Sleep Res. 2016;25(5):549–55.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Woods HC, Scott H. #Sleepyteens: social media use in adolescence is associated with poor sleep quality, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. J Adolesc. 2016;51:41–9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Levenson JC, Shensa A, Sidani JE, Colditz JB, Primack BA. The association between social media use and sleep disturbance among young adults. Prev Med. 2016;85:36–41.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Hale L, Guan S. Screen time and sleep among school-aged children and adolescents: a systematic literature review. Sleep Med Rev. 2015;21:50–8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Bergeron MF, Mountjoy M, Armstrong N, Chia M, Cote J, Emery CA, et al. International olympic committee consensus statement on youth athletic development. Br J Sports Med. 2015;49(13):843–51.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Paruthi S, Brooks LJ, D'Ambrosio C, Hall WA, Kotagal S, Lloyd RM, et al. Consensus statement of the american academy of sleep medicine on the recommended amount of sleep for healthy children: methodology and discussion. J Clin Sleep Med. 2016;12(11):1549–61.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Milewski MD, Skaggs DL, Bishop GA, Pace JL, Ibrahim DA, et al. Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes. J Pediatr Orthop. 2014;34(2):129–33.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Watson AM. Sleep and athletic performance. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2017;16(6):413–8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Cohen S, Doyle WJ, Alper CM, Janicki-Deverts D, Turner RB. Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(1):62–7.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Moon JH, Lee E, Lee J, Choi TR, Sung Y. The role of narcissism in self-promotion on Instagram. Personal Individ Differ. 2016;101:22–5. Scholar
  27. 27.
    Filo K, Lock D, Karg A. Sport and social media research: a review. Sport Manag Rev. 2015;18(2):166–81. Scholar
  28. 28.
    Stavros C, Meng MD, Westberg K, Farrelly F. Understanding fan motivation for interacting on social media. Sport Manag Rev. 2014;17(4):455–69. Scholar
  29. 29.
    Mudrick M, Miller M, Atkin D. The influence of social media on fan reactionary behaviors. Telematics Inf. 2016;33(4):896–903. Scholar
  30. 30.
    Sanderson J, Truax C. “I hate you man!”: exploring maladaptive parasocial interaction expressions to college athletes via twitter. J Issues Intercollegiate Athl. 2014;7:333–51.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Browning B, Sanderson J. The positives and negatives of twitter: exploring how student-athletes use twitter and respond to critical tweets. Int J Sport Commun. 2012;5(4):503–21. Scholar
  32. 32.
    Greene JA, Choudhry NK, Kilabuk E, Shrank WH. Online social networking by patients with diabetes: a qualitative evaluation of communication with Facebook. J Gen Intern Med. 2011;26(3):287–92.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Strohle A. Sports psychiatry: mental health and mental disorders in athletes and exercise treatment of mental disorders. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2018; Scholar
  34. 34.
    Mahan JE III, Seo WJ, Jordan JS, Funk D. Exploring the impact of social networking sites on running involvement, running behavior, and social life satisfaction. Sport Manag Rev. 2015;18(2):182–92. Scholar
  35. 35.
    Williams G, Hamm MP, Shulhan J, Vandermeer B, Hartling L. Social media interventions for diet and exercise behaviours: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ Open. 2014;4(2):e003926,2013–003926. Scholar
  36. 36.
    Zhang J, Brackbill D, Yang S, Becker J, Herbert N, Centola D. Support or competition? How online social networks increase physical activity: a randomized controlled trial. Prev Med Rep. 2016;4:453–8. Scholar
  37. 37.
    Zhang J, Brackbill D, Yang S, Centola D. Efficacy and causal mechanism of an online social media intervention to increase physical activity: results of a randomized controlled trial. Prev Med Rep. 2015;2:651–7.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Sardi L, Idri A, Fernandez-Aleman JL. A systematic review of gamification in e-health. J Biomed Inform. 2017;71:31–48.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Patel MS, Benjamin EJ, Volpp KG, Fox CS, Small DS, Massaro JM, et al. Effect of a game-based intervention designed to enhance social incentives to increase physical activity among families: the BE FIT randomized clinical trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(11):1586–93.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Sanderson J. To tweet or not to tweet: exploring division I athletic departments’ social-media policies. Int J Sport Commun. 2011;4(4):492–513. Scholar
  41. 41.
    Sanderson J, Snyder E, Hull D, Gramlich K. Social media policies within NCAA member institutions: evolving technology and its impact on policy. J Issues Intercollegiate Athl. 2015;8:50–73.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Sanderson J, Browning B, Schmittel A. Education on the digital terrain: a case study exploring college athletes’ perceptions of social-media training. Int J Sport Commun. 2015;8(1):103–24. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sports Medicine SectionArizona State University Health Services, Arizona State University AthleticsTempeUSA
  2. 2.Collaborative Care, Family Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of California, San DiegoSan DiegoUSA

Personalised recommendations