Social media use has once again been linked to loneliness and depression. Research has been hinting at the connection for several years, but scientists from the University of Pennsylvania say that this new study is the most comprehensive and rigorous to date.
Social media is not all bad, as not much really is, but most people tend to have a difficult time using their social media accounts in moderation. That, according to the new study, can leave a person’s mental state a little lacking. There are even therapies and rehabilitation for those who have an addiction to social media.
Ever since sites like Facebook and Instagram became part of daily life, scientists have wondered whether or not they could contribute to mental health problems. In fact, research has hinted at a connection between social media use and depression for several years, according to This Insider. We have reached a point where people have a hard time tearing away from their social media accounts.
Published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, the most recent study linking poor mental health conditions to social media use has added even more evidence to back up the theory. The researchers from the University of Pennsylvania intentionally designed their experiment to be more comprehensive than previous studies on the topic. Rather than relying on short-term lab data or self-reported questionnaires, they recruited 143 undergraduate students to share screenshots of their Phone battery screens over a week to collect data on how much they were using social media apps including Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.
According to an in-depth report on the study done by This Inside, subjects of the study were told either to maintain their typical social media behavior or limit it to 10 minutes per day. Alongside the screenshot data, the researchers also looked at how much the participants experienced fear of missing out, anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
“Here’s the bottom line,” said Melissa G. Hunt, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania and lead author of the study. “Using less social media than you normally would lead to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness. These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study,” said Hunt. “It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely,” she added. “Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens. When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.”
“If you spend most of your time scrolling through your newsfeed checking out other people’s lives and compare them to your own, you become more at risk of developing (or having worsening) symptoms of depression or anxiety,” psychologist Allison Abrams told Business Insider. “This is especially so in those with low self-esteem.”
There are definitely physical and mental health benefits to a technology detox. The results suggest social media and screens should both be used in moderation; just like most things. “When you’re not busy getting sucked into clickbait social media, you’re actually spending more time on things that are more likely to make you feel better about your life,” Hunt said. “In general, I would say, put your phone down and be with the people in your life.”