How Social Media impacts Muslim mental health

Written by Westminster Kingsway College Students
Published March 4, 2022

Study shows several drawbacks of Social Media for young Muslims in the UK

With social media becoming more popular, it raises many questions, is it dangerous for your mental health? This survey was created to hear the voices of Muslims living in the UK aged 13+ and understand their point of view on social media and how it affects their mental health.

We wanted to know the emotions and thoughts Muslims deal with while spending their time on social media and create a safe space for them to be open about how they feel without feeling judged.

Our names are Hannah, Aya, Yusuf and Reem and we are 4 students studying at Westminster Kingsway college. During our two weeks of work experience at Muslim Census, we decided to raise awareness for Muslims and give them a platform to express the feelings they go through being active on social media. 

After publishing our survey, we received 333 responses but only 300 being Muslims aged 13+. As this survey was only organised for Muslims 13+, those who did not qualify were removed.

The survey was published Friday 25th February and we spent 4 days spreading the survey around in person and online. We used a variety of social media to promote this survey and received an incredible amount of feedback within those 4 days. We also mentioned at the end of the survey and our social media posts to share the survey to others which also helped us increase our feedback.

Limitations of the study

There are a few limitations with regards to this study, one being the sample size. Due to the limited time we had, we only managed to gather a sample size of 300 Muslims which we cannot say is representative of all Muslims in the UK. This study heavily represents the younger demographic of Muslims with only a handful of responses from those older than 30.

Thus, this report is skewed and limited to the younger demographic of Muslims in the UK.

How many Muslims use social media?

Following the release of our survey, we discovered that 98% of Muslims use social media

Instagram is the most popular social media platform, with 83.3% of Muslims using it, followed by YouTube with 76.7%, Snapchat with 75.7%, Twitter with 73.3%, TikTok with 65%, LinkedIn with 36% and the least commonly used social media network is Facebook with 31.7% of Muslims using it.

Looking into the gender differences in social media usage, we came across that 53.3% of those who responded to our survey were female, 43.7% were male, and 3% preferred to not mention their gender.

Instagram is the most popular social media platform for women, with 87% of them using it; Snapchat is the 2nd most used app with 82% and Facebook is the least popular network, with 33%. When compared to males, YouTube is their most common app, with 83% of male social media users, followed by Instagram with 81% and the least popular app is the same with females, Facebook (30%).

Furthermore, analysing the age differences we noticed that those under the age of 25 use Instagram the most, then it was Snapchat being the second most widely used. We received 134 responses from 19–24-year-olds, with 87% using Instagram and 84% using snapchat. We received 73 responses from 13–18-year-olds, with 89% using Instagram and 82% using Snapchat. For those aged 25+, Twitter was their most frequently used app with 82% of users and Instagram with 73%.

We can see that Instagram is a very popular social media platform among Muslim users.

Social media addiction causing downsides for Muslims

For many users, social media becomes addictive, eventually disrupting their emotional and mental health. Unhealthy usage of social media can lead to feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety, as well as suicidal thoughts and self-harm.

Social comparison is a huge part of trends on social media; yes, it can inspire and motivate young people, but on the negative side it destroys some people’s self-esteem and confidence.

We found that more than 50% of Muslims spend more than 4 hours per day on social media which is deeply concerning.

What is the effect of social media on mental health?

There are many ways social media affects people’s mental health. For example, the survey we created stated, ‘It’s very easy to be completely obsessed with social media to the point where you can’t go minutes without checking your phone. It feels like an anchor, and it makes your mind very loud.’

There were several other responses that appeared to identify a trend: 

‘A lot of what is available on social media, or certain images that are pushed by the outlet itself can have harmful effects on the audience. For example, filters, editing tools and so on, can lead to lower self-esteem in regard to impressionable youngsters’

‘Social media and influencers often portray this image of a “perfect life”. For younger people seeing this, they may find it easy to compare to their personal situation when what they’re seeing isn’t really reality.’

‘A lot of negative energy, violations towards one another, increases negativity and not enough empowerment’

According to the survey we created 140 Muslims struggle with low self-esteem, with 57% being female and 41% were male. Moreover, 84 Muslims struggle with jealousy, with 57% being female and 42% male. And 27 Muslims said that a negative effect of social media was that it encourages suicidal thoughts, 56% were male and 44% were female.

So, is social media harmful to young people?

In this survey we can see 6% of Muslims state social media is not harmful and 79% find it harmful. There are multiple reasons why people find social media harmful but the most common was addiction.

A quote from the survey highlights the addictive nature of social media usage: “There is a problem with addiction and exposure to harmful material. Many platforms are designed to maximise time spent on the app.”

Another reason why most people found social media quite harmful was that the majority of the posts are not suitable for the younger generation. A quote from the survey explains “Some posts aren’t suitable for people of certain ages and are very easily accessible.” These types of comments were quite common in the survey. 

In this survey we can see that, overall, social media represents a more negative impact for the youth. We asked our respondents “do you believe social media is, on the whole, more positive or more negative” and 48% selected more negative and 26% more positive. This tells us that nearly double the amount of people that took this survey think that social media is more negative as a whole.

Lastly, we asked our sample if they were aware of any Muslim mental health organisations/charities and only 22% of Muslims were. This is a massive cause for concern. After our research, we identified Muslim Youth Helpline, Muslim Council of Britain and several others that Muslims can call to. You can find out more about them here.

Written by Hannah, Aya, Yusuf and Reem.

Sample Breakdown

Gender: Female 53.3%, Male 43.7%, Prefer not to say 3%

Age: 13-18 24.3%, 19-24 44.5%, 25-30 20.6%, 31-36 6.3%, 37-42 2.3%, 43+ 1.7%

Ethnicity: Asian – Bangladeshi 29.7%, Arab 18%, Asian Pakistani 15.7%, Asian Indian 8.7%, Black African 8.7%, Any other ethnic group 4.3%, White- other 4%, Mixed- other 2.3%, Black- other 2%, Mixed- white and black 1.7%, White- British 1.7%, Black- Caribbean 1.3-%, Mixed- white and Asian 1.3%, White- Irish 0.7%

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