Mixed Results And Nonpredictors
The frequency of SNS use as a whole suggested no clear association with depression and anxiety. Longitudinal research suggests that depression and anxiety remain stable in the context of how frequently a user engages with SNSs and the function of use holds clearer associations with depression and anxiety . This is consistent with the literature examining general Internet use where total frequency of use is often not a predictor of depression, particularly when examining the social features of the Internet . For example, when examining different functions on the Internet, Morgan and Cotten showed that more hours spent using the Internet for social activities are associated with decreased levels of depression and that informational uses and gaming are associated with increases in depression.
While total SNS use may not affect psychopathology, it may be related to subjective well-being. This was illustrated in the study by Kross et al , in which more frequent SNS use was related to experiencing more negative affect and reducing life satisfaction. As frequent experience of negative affect may contribute to the onset and maintenance of depression, it is likely that a pathway to poorer mental health outcomes exists via the impact SNS use has on the frequency of experiencing positive and negative emotions . Additionally, other SNS features and cognitive processes may be more informative in describing the impact frequent SNS use has on mental health.
Using Lots Of Social Media Sites Raises Depression Risk
A national survey by Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health found that use of multiple social media platforms is more strongly associated with depression and anxiety among young adults than the total amount of time they spend on social media.
The analysis, published online and scheduled for the April print issue of the journal Computers in Human Behavior, showed that people who report using seven to 11 social media platforms had more than three times the risk of depression and anxiety than their peers who use no more than two platforms, even after adjusting for the total time spent on social media overall.
This association is strong enough that clinicians could consider asking their patients with depression and anxiety about multiple platform use and counseling them that this use may be related to their symptoms, said lead author Brian A. Primack, MD, PhD, assistant vice chancellor for health and society in Pitts Schools of the Health Sciences and the center’s director. While we cant tell from this study whether depressed and anxious people seek out multiple platforms or whether something about using multiple platforms can lead to depression and anxiety, in either case the results are potentially valuable.
Primack, who also is a professor of medicine at Pitt, emphasized that the directionality of the association is unclear.
Primack and his team propose several hypotheses as to why multi-platform social media use may drive depression and anxiety:
The Risks For The Reward
Social media has a reinforcing nature. Using it activates the brains reward center by releasing dopamine, a feel-good chemical linked to pleasurable activities such as sex, food, and social interaction. The platforms are designed to be addictive and are associated with anxiety, depression, and even physical ailments.
According to the Pew Research Center, 69% of adults and 81% of teens in the U.S. use social media. This puts a large amount of the population at an increased risk of feeling anxious, depressed, or ill over their social media use.
But what makes users come back for more even when it can literally make them feel sick?
When the outcome is unpredictable, the behavior is more likely to repeat, Sperling says. Think of a slot machine: if game players knew they never were going to get money by playing the game, then they never would play. The idea of a potential future reward keeps the machines in use. The same goes for social media sites. One does not know how many likes a picture will get, who will like the picture, and when the picture will receive likes. The unknown outcome and the possibility of a desired outcome can keep users engaged with the sites.
To boost self-esteem and feel a sense of belonging in their social circles, people post content with the hope of receiving positive feedback. Couple that content with the structure of potential future reward, and you get a recipe for constantly checking platforms.
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The Popularity Of Social Media
More people around the world today use social media than do not. Thats a remarkable statement considering social media did not exist until the last few years of the 20th century. Its popularity has grown quickly in the past two decades, with 51% of the worlds population now registered with at least one social media site.
The most popular sites include the following .
Potential Challenges Of Digital Technologies
Although the studies are promising, there are several key challenges in this field, including methodological limitations . There is a need for more technologies that have been co-developed and evaluated rigorously according to research frameworks . Many of the studies available are small and primarily undertaken by the programme developers. Follow-ups are lacking and therefore little is known about the longer-term benefits of digital interventions. Even technologies recommended by NICE have limited evidence, for example the most recent evaluation of Stressbusters did not find a positive effect at 12 months .
Other challenges include low user engagement, uptake and adherence to these programmes. Uptake and adherence might be improved by providing support by practitioners, which might require further time, resources and training. However, a systematic review found that support can be provided by practitioners with various levels of clinical training .
Most of the studies and technologies identified in this review were delivered only in English and were created in high-income countries. However, there is an increasing interest in the use of digital technologies in LMICs, where many have access to the internet and mobile devices, but lack formal face-to-face approaches to mental healthcare . There is also a lack of studies involving those with neurodevelopmental difficulties, intellectual disabilities and other specific difficulties.
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Social Media And Perceived Isolation
Another study last year of a national sample of young adults showed correlation between the time spent on social media and perceived social isolation . The authors noted that directionality cant be determined. That is, Do people feeling socially isolated spend more time on social media, or do more intense users develop PSI?
If its the latter, they noted, Is it because the individual is spending less time on more authentic social experiences that would decrease PSI? Or is it the nature of observing highly curated social feeds that they make you feel more excluded?
Which brings us what we now call FOMO, or fear of missing out.
Jerry Bubrick, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, observes that FOMO is really the fear of not being connected to our social world, and that need to feel connected sometimes trumps whatevers going on in the actual situation were in. The more we use social media, the less we think about being present in the moment.
Instead we might be occupied with worrying why we werent invited to a party were seeing on Instagram, or making sure we dont miss a single post from a friend. But if were always playing catch-up to endless online updates, were prioritizing social interactions that arent as emotionally rewarding and can actually make us feel more isolated.
The Digital Age Of Vulnerability
The earlier teens start using social media, the greater impact the platforms have on mental health. This is especially true for females. While teen males tend to express aggression physically, females do so relationally by excluding others and sharing hurtful comments. Social media increases the opportunity for such harmful interactions.
Sperling offers the example of a seventh grader whose best friend chooses a new best friend and posts pictures of the pair at the movies or on a weekend trip. Twenty years ago, the girl may have been excluded from her best friends activities, but she may not have known about it unless she was told explicitly, Sperling says.
In addition to providing young people with a window through which they can view missed experiences, social media puts a distorted lens on appearances and reality. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat increase the likelihood of seeing unrealistic, filtered photos at a time when teen bodies are changing.
In the past, teens read magazines that contained altered photos of models. Now, these images are one thumb-scroll away at any given time. Apps that provide the user with airbrushing, teeth whitening, and more filters are easy to find and easier to use. Its not only celebrities who look perfectits everyone.
When theres a filter applied to the digital world, it can be hard for teens to tell whats real and what isnt, which comes at a difficult time for them physically and emotionally.
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Learn The Warning Signs Of Burnout And How You Can Combat Screen Fatigue
Digital burnout, or the feelings of anxiety, exhaustion, and apathy caused by spending too much time on digital devices, is a growing problem. As technology makes us more interconnected and as the pandemic forces more of us to rely on computers, tablets, and smartphones for work, the risk of burning out goes up and up.
Emotional Aspects Of Social Networking Sites
The valence of posts on SNSs may both reflect and impact depression and anxiety. Individuals scoring higher on depression scales in the reviewed studies generally expressed more negative affect on SNSs and were more likely to perceive negative interactions. The way individuals interpret emotional and social content on SNSs may place depression as antecedent to maladaptive SNS use, which may, in turn, maintain depressive symptoms. For individuals who are already depressed, ambiguous interactions are often interpreted as negative , which may attenuate the potential benefits available through SNS use.
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Description Of Included Studies And Geographical Distribution
Nine studies were cross-sectional survey studies, only the study by used a prospective cohort study design. All ten of the studies targeted adolescents and/or emerging adult groups. All studies examined both genders and the sample sizes ranged from 241 to 5,365. Most studies were carried out in Mainland China, one study was carried out in Hong Kong , and one study was carried out in Taiwan . Given that China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong share the same cultural background, we deemed it important to include studies from these areas of the world in the present review. Furthermore, the participants in these studies were Chinese SNS users. Table 1 summarizes further information about the included studies and provides insights into the effect sizes observed in each study.
Safely Using Social Media
Using social media comes with mental health risks, but that doesnt mean it should be completely avoided. Experts recommend using these networking websites in moderation.
Set a timer when youre on social media or install an app on your phone or computer that tracks how long youve spent on a networking site.
Without these timers or apps, its easy to spend hours on social media before you know it. To limit your time on social media, you can also plan real-world activities that help you focus on your immediate surroundings and circumstances. Read a book, watch a movie, go for a stroll, play a game, bake some bread, or have a phone conversation with a friend. Make the time to enjoy life offline.
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Social Media Use And Adult Depression
Demonstrator gathered outside the Science Center on Monday before marching through the Yard.
Photograph by Niko Yaitanes/Harvard Magazine
At a Monday demonstration, students show support for the plaintiffs.
Kitch competing in a mass-start 20k in Craftsbury, Vermont.
Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner
Photographs by Niko Yaitanes/Harvard Magazine
Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman received the 72nd annual honors.
Alumni Association executive director announces retirement at end of 2022.
Right: Earl Brown from his Harvard transcript, c.1920.
Left: Team photo, captioned Harvard Baseball Squad, 1924, with Brown seated on ground far left.
Cappucci as a tornado carved through Lockett, Texas, on April 23, 2021. Hail shattered his windshield minutes later.
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Enjoying the art of making and drinking tea, here featuring Ceylon and Black & Green leaves from Mem Tea
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Abraham Riesman, at home in Providence with his cat, Barbara, writes about pop cultures overlooked depths.
Blue Trees, 1945
Right: Earl Brown from his Harvard transcript, c.1920.
Left: Team photo, captioned Harvard Baseball Squad, 1924, with Brown seated on ground far left.
Modifying Social Media Use To Improve Mental Health Step : Reduce Time Online
A 2018 University of Pennsylvania study found that reducing social media use to 30 minutes a day resulted in a significant reduction in levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, sleep problems, and FOMO. But you dont need to cut back on your social media use that drastically to improve your mental health. The same study concluded that just being more mindful of your social media use can have beneficial results on your mood and focus.
While 30 minutes a day may not be a realistic target for many of us, we can still benefit from reducing the amount of time we spend on social media. For most of us, that means reducing how much we use our smartphones. The following tips can help:
For more tips on reducing your overall phone use, read Smartphone Addiction.
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The Role Social Media Plays In Mental Health
Human beings are social creatures. We need the companionship of others to thrive in life, and the strength of our connections has a huge impact on our mental health and happiness. Being socially connected to others can ease stress, anxiety, and depression, boost self-worth, provide comfort and joy, prevent loneliness, and even add years to your life. On the flip side, lacking strong social connections can pose a serious risk to your mental and emotional health.
In todays world, many of us rely on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram to find and connect with each other. While each has its benefits, its important to remember that social media can never be a replacement for real-world human connection. It requires in-person contact with others to trigger the hormones that alleviate stress and make you feel happier, healthier, and more positive. Ironically for a technology thats designed to bring people closer together, spending too much time engaging with social media can actually make you feel more lonely and isolatedand exacerbate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
If youre spending an excessive amount of time on social media and feelings of sadness, dissatisfaction, frustration, or loneliness are impacting your life, it may be time to re-examine your online habits and find a healthier balance.
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Communication On Social Media Has A Dark Side
While not everyone on the internet has a hard time communicating in real life, there is still a good portion of introverts who have an easier time talking online.
Social media makes it easier for those people to connect with others and learn social cues that could have been missed. This can be especially helpful for people who live in smaller towns and have a deep desire to broaden their horizons.
While you can’t exactly remain anonymous on social media without creating a fake profile, you can create a whole new persona. This can help people who have a hard time socializing to break out of their shells.
Where social media has gotten into trouble is when these personas get pulled to the dark side.
About 10 percent of teens report being bullied on social media and even more claim they have been the recipient of offensive remarks. Being on the receiving end can lead to lower self-esteem and self-image.
It’s also hard to express clear and concise communication when only using a keyboard. Language gets lost in translation without more communication clues to give context, like body language.
What could have been intended as an innocent remark could be taken personally. This could lead to an argument that could have been avoided if it had been made in person.
Communication on social media still has some maturing to do before it becomes a force for good.
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Social Media Can Lead To Depression Anxiety And Loneliness
The uncontrollable urge to share everyday life with others on social media is starting to have long-term effects.
Studies have shown that increased use of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok is leading to depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only pushed more people to the platforms but has also caused people to spend unusual amounts of time cruising their feeds.
The longer everyone spends on their phones, the less time they spend with the people in their lives. When we have positive social interactions, our bodies release endorphins that help make us feel good.
Social media platforms have become aware of how to manipulate this reward response to increase engagement and time spent on apps.
When you receive positive feedback on a post you made or picture you uploaded, it releases some of those endorphins. This is what keeps people on the platforms for hours. But it can also lead to increased feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
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Casinos use the same types of tactics to get people to spend more time, and money, on their business. Giving out small wins to keep people coming back but never being able to fulfill their needs.
If everyone had a full understanding of this concept could lead to healthier social media habits. Problem is, not very many people know how to create a healthy balance.