Does Social Media Cause Depression?


There’s no denying that social media has dramatically changed the way we communicate, socialise, and make and maintain friendships. While there are noticeable benefits to living in a new-found digital world, there are also many risks to the lifestyle. While it’s common knowledge that today’s youth have missed out on critical social skills development that older generations were accustomed to, they can also get lost in a world of unrealistic comparisons, cyberbullying, and generally feeling left out.

According to reports, research shows a huge increase in major depression and mental health concerns from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.3% in 2014 in adolescents and from 8.8% to 9.6% in young adults. The increase was larger and only statistically significant only in the age range of 12 to 20 years. It’s no secret that connecting via texting, Instagram, and Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms can include harsh judgments and comparisons from actions, but now it’s easier than ever to make statements on a screen that would usually be difficult to make face to face, in most circumstances.

In one study reported by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK, 1500 young people between the ages of 14 to 24 were surveyed to determine the effects of social media use on issues such as anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and body image that are becoming increasingly more prominent in today’s youth. The results from the study show that YouTube had the most positive impact, while Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat all had negative effects on mental health.

While the results might shock you and lead to you being a little more cautious when deciding what social media apps you really need in your day to day life, professionals have expressed concerns over making any harsh refrainment from any digital communication, saying that avoidance isn’t the answer. Many of us typically use social media to connect, seek friendship and support, and even ask for help at times, while others also use it to promote, advertise products and/or art or create.

In a recent interview with the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Today, they explained that they had “set out to do a much more comprehensive, rigorous study that was also more ecologically valid.” Their study specifically examined real usage based on the iPhone’s built-in app that monitors and examines what happens to smartphone users when they reduce their social media intake, enabling them to make claims about what effect social media causes in its users

The universities team recruited 143 undergraduate students to monitor their social media usage, specifically Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. The study participants were also given a survey designed to measure a number of psychological characteristics like depression, anxiety, the fear of missing out, a common feeling many youth feel day to day. Students who participated in the survey took this survey before the experiment began to establish a baseline and then several times again over the ensuing three weeks. During the duration, students were either instructed to continue using social media as they typically did or to limit their time on each platform to 10 minutes per day. With just 30 minutes of Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat a day, this is a significant reduction in the amount of time many people use social media. Some studies have proposed cutting social media out entirely, but considering how much our social and professional lives require these platforms, complete abstinence doesn’t seem feasible.

According to the results, limiting social media just the right amount can have some incredible results. Limiting your social media use to just 10 minutes per day per platform can have drastic effects on our perceived well-being. While cutting back to 10 minutes each day is a scary thought for some, professionals encourage to at least remain conscious about your social media usage, which can also positively affect your mood when browsing.

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