Depression caused by social media is one of the modern day challenges faced daily among youths and adults alike. Most people are attached to their phones solely because of the entertainment it provides through social media sites and apps.
A lot of people can’t go a day without checking into their social media accounts. It has become a core and almost indispensable part of life.
As harmless as this addiction seems, scientific studies and research has found that social media use can birth depression.
A research work published in the journal of anxiety and depression carried out by the center for research on media, technology, and health, the University of Pittsburgh drew a linear association between social media use and depression. The aim was to measure the impact of depression caused by social media.
The survey was centered around 1787 young adults aged 19 through 32 years and 11 social media platforms. A depression scale and social media items were used to carry out the research. Factors such as gender, relationship status, household income, education and time spent on social media were all taken into consideration.
About one-fourth of the participants were categorized under a high risk of depression. Age-wise, 27 to 32-year-olds were found to be more likely to be depressed due to social media use, following closely are 24-26-year-olds, while 19-32-year-olds had the least possibility of being depressed. Also, females and those with low levels of education were found to be more prone to depression.
When all variables were compared, participants who spent a lot of time per day on social media were more exposed to the risk of depression than those who didn’t.
Also, the study established that people who switched between multiple social media platforms have three times the odds of being depressed than those who used less social media platforms.
Also, a survey carried out by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed a relationship between screen time and depression caused by social media in adolescents.
The study was carried out within a span of 4 years were data was collected from a sample of 3826 adolescents, results showed depression symptoms increased in adolescents for every hour spent on social media and within the years.
It has also been found in a study conducted that limiting social media use can abate depression symptoms. The study sampled 143 undergraduates.
The participants were divided into two groups, one group was asked to limit social media use to as little as 10 minutes per platform and per day. The other group(the control group) were asked to use social media as usual for three weeks.
Results showed that the group of participants who limited social media use observed a significant decrease in depression compared to the control group.
On the whole, both groups showed a reduction in depression symptoms which researchers suggested maybe as a result of self-awareness on their use of social media.
However, a recent study published in the journal of psychological science disputes these findings. The researchers observed and analyzed 594 adolescents who were surveyed yearly for two years and 1132 undergraduate students for six years.
The results of the study revealed that only adolescent girls showed signs of depression.
It should be noted that all these studies are based on observational and correlational behavior and do not corroborate a cause and effect relationship between social media use and depression.
REASONS FOR DEPRESSION CAUSED BY SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media use can instigate feelings of insecurity in individuals. Social media sites like Instagram is filled with well-curated and aesthetically pleasing lives of people. People take snapshots of the grandeur and finer parts of their life to post on Instagram.
These well-filtered photos and videos can tend to make someone who isn’t privileged to afford such a lifestyle start feeling bad about themselves. Whether these perceived images are real or not does not matter.
In this vein, a person’s self-worth becomes compromised as they keep comparing their lives with the glamorous and seemingly happy life of others. When this goes on for a long time, symptoms of depression may set in.
Most of us are bonded by digital relationships as opposed to personal ones. We feel more connected from behind the screen than we do in real life. We rather spend hours texting online than meeting up for hangouts.
We become exposed to the façade that is our virtual lives. Each person striving to curate the perfect life for themselves behind the screen. We are more keen on compliments and validations we receive from our online friends.
This can impact us negatively to the extent that we can’t seem to find a balance between our real life and virtual one. We hid behind the screen and indulge in unhealthy competition. We want to belong at all costs even if it means sacrificing our mental health.
Over time this can tend to incite feelings of dissatisfaction and ill contentment. Also, depressed people are more likely to engage in digital relationships as they can conveniently hide behind the screen without giving people an insight into what is going on in their lives.
Referred to as a form of social anxiety, FOMO means the fear of missing out. It is the intense feeling of wanting to stay connected to what other people are doing with their lives so you don’t miss out.
It is also the dreadful feeling of anxiety you get when you come across posts of your friends or loved ones having a good time without you. It is the unhealthy desire to be constantly in the loop of things. FOMO can subsequently lead to anxiety and depression.
Most people spend a sufficient amount of time on social media to such an extent that it gets in the way of sleep. They reach for their phones when they are about to go to bed to check just a few things online and find themselves spending far more time than they intended, as a result, the duration of their sleep is shortened.
Sleep deprivation can negatively impact an individual’s health by causing a surge in stress levels. This can subsequently lead to symptoms of depression.
WHAT IS THE WAY OUT
From most of the studies carried out, the bottom line is that social media is associated with depression and can negatively impact your mental health. Below are certain tips to avoid falling prey to the adverse effects of social media.
- Use an activity tracking app to limit time spent on social media
- Turn off notifications
- Keep your phone away from arm’s reach at bedtime
- Challenge yourself to spend time away from social media for specific periods of time
- Make time to visit your friends and loved ones than opting to text them online
- Be real when posting bits and pieces of your life on social media. Don’t post to impress anyone. Post only because it makes you feel good.