Social Media and Effects of Mental Health: A interview with Dr. Jackson Preston

Posted on April 13, 2022 by vcfelic

By Jake Saavedra, Vanessa Feliciano, Lily Hong, Jocelyn Castanon

Dr. Portia Jackson Preston is an Assistant Professor of Public Health at California State University, Fullerton.  She conducts research on multilevel approaches to self-care, and examines how stressors such as media contribute to health inequity. She was a featured speaker at TEDxCrenshaw, where she gave a speech entitled “The Missing Ingredient in Self-Care”. She works with organizations to prevent and manage burnout by making sustainable performance and resilience. 

Dr. Jackson Preston earned her Doctorate of Public Health from UCLA, her Masters of Public Health from the University of Michigan, and her Bachelors degree from Stanford University. Prior to her career in academic life, she worked for Deloitte Consulting and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, consulted for Susan G. Komen Orange County, and founded Active Steps Coaching. 


Social media is a part of everyday life. Phones are never more than a few feet away from their owners. Whether it’s for pictures, messaging, or media apps, these technological bricks are in the hands of millions of people every second. The growing addiction to a screen has severe effects on people. With the growing popularity of social media there has been less of a focus on physical interactions and more so on online interactions and engagement. This has resulted in mental health issues, especially in young adults, due to an increase in body image issues, FOMO, and depression.

Mental health holds an individual’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It determines how an individual handles stress, interpersonal relationships, and decision-making. This illness influences one’s perception and behavior, causing depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorders. This is just a fragment of the effects that mental health can cause for individuals. Studies show social media and all of its likeness enhances the likelihood of someone holding these effects.

Source: Researchgate.com 2012

There is a clear link between social media use and depression rates among children and young adults. The article “Social Media as It Interfaces with Psychosocial Development and Mental Illness in Transitional-Age Youth” researched and written by Dr. Brian A Primack, says, 

In this article many aspects of social media’s effect are evaluated. Primack goes in-depth about both the 

“In this study, SM use at baseline was strongly associated with the development of depression among nondepressed individuals over the subsequent 6 months. In fact, even while controlling for covariates, those in the highest quartile of SM use had about three times the odds for developing depression compared with those in the lowest quartile of SM use.”

In this article many aspects of social media’s effect are evaluated. Primack goes in-depth about both the negative and positive effects of social media on adolescents. His findings concluded that social media can be good to help people suffering with mental illness to find help and resources online, but it definitely has a negative impact on a person’s mental condition. “Large cross-sectional epidemiologic studies suggest that increased SM use is linearly associated with prevalence of mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance.”

There are many tools that students can adapt to help combat depression and other mental illnesses brought on by social media. In an interview with Dr. Portia Preston Jackson, a professor in the Department of Health at Cal State Fullerton with a doctorate from UCLA in public health, she describes some tips from those with mental health issues:

  1. Have a solid support system

“Having people to talk to allows you to be human. People that will take you off a pedestal. Ones that don’t put pressure on you. That might be other students, or in the community. A place where people don’t gaslight you and just tell you to be strong.”

  1. Slow down

“Be reminded to slow down. Sometimes I feel like I’m multiple people and that’s not healthy or sustainable. Be human and go back to a sustainable pace” Dr. Preston said. “Many of us are being asked to do things that are far beyond our bandwidth and we’re doing it just because everyone else is. So I think we have to be realistic about ourselves of what we can do.”

  1. Take little steps
    “I don’t want you to show up one day at a time, I want you to show up one
    moment at a time. Make life easier to live through. We can do really hard things if
    we learn how to take care of ourselves.”
  2. Take time outside
    “Five minutes even outside in the sun can really help reset my perspective. Take
    time each day for a better spiritual routine, whether it be devotion, meditation,
    reflecting and writing in a journal, watching the sun rise and set, connecting with
    nature, etc. All of those things bring me back to balance because none of us
    make the sunrise or sunset and the world does not revolve around us.”

There has been a definite change in college students and their mentality in the past few years. Dr. Jackson Preston explains “I have more students disclose to me that they are dealing with anxiety and depression, absolutely.”  College students are very much affected because of all the pressures they are going through. Most students juggle school, work, a social life, and having an active social media presence. Social media has added more pressure onto college students especially due to extreme expectations. “We compare ourselves to people when we have no idea what their supports are or what their reality is or what they’re struggling with because all we see is what they’re best projecting.”

Dr. Jackson Preston advocates on having a more mindful use of technology by understanding how one feels before and after looking at social media. “If I go on social media and feel terrible about myself, how do I separate myself from that?” Social media has become a pacifier of some sort due to the immediate gratification it provides.

Social media is very daunting. There are images of everyone’s best versions of themselves. According to a study conducted by Kollen Duffy, Professor at Middle Tennessee State University, over half of people on social media (63%) edit their photos before posting. This means that over half the photos people see online  unrealistic, edited versions of people to strive to be. This can do a lot of damage to a person’s self image and has been linked to depression and anxiety.

According to previously mentioned statistics and Dr. Jackson Preston’s experience, social media has a clear link to depression and anxiety. It is a major part of everyday life because of the prominence that technology has in our society. There is almost no way to avoid having a social media presence in college because it is used for many other aspects other than social, like school projects, community events. There are tools that can be implemented that can offset the effects of social media. Society, as a whole, needs to come together and address the severe consequences of social media in order to keep the minds of their youth healthy.

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