Anyone who has spent too much time on social media knows what it’s like to come away feeling anxious, irritable, despondent, or angry. Interacting with friends, acquaintances, and strangers online can provoke emotions ranging from envy to outrage. Many people often lament that social media platforms have replaced meaningful social interaction with superficial sharing, which makes us more fragmented and less happy. Can social media use actually lead to depression? There have now been several studies examining the relationship between social media and depression. Some of these studies have found that social media itself is not the problem, but rather how people use it. For example, Facebook, itself, found that passively consuming content on its platform is linked to worse mental health. One study of about 500 college students found that certain social media behaviors were linked to depression. Students who were in the habit of comparing themselves to others on social media were far more likely to be depressed. Not only is this kind of comparison unhealthy in general, but everyone presents the best version of himself on social media, which makes the comparison seem worse. Social media addiction also correlated with depression. This is characterized by trying to reduce or quit social media use but being unable to or letting social media interfere with other priorities. Another study found that the number of social media platforms you use may also be relevant to depression and anxiety. This survey of nearly 1800 young adults found that the people who used the most platforms had more than three times the risk of depression and anxiety as those who used the fewest. This relationship stayed the same, even controlling for other factors, including total time spent on social media. The study’s lead author speculates that this might be because users’ attention is more divided among different platforms. Studies have shown that multitasking is associated with weaker attention, impaired cognition, and low mood. So far, most studies have shown correlation rather than causation. One thing that has definitely been shown to contribute to depression is online bullying or harassment. At least 60 percent of people have had several negative interactions on Facebook. Being bullied on Facebook has been shown to more than triple your risk of depression, while other unwanted contact more that doubles it. There is some good news though. The Facebook study that found that passively consuming content led to worse mental health outcomes also found that using the platform to interact with friends and family led to more happiness. Other studies have found that using social media to facilitate real life social interaction can also make you happier. The trick is to use social media rather than allow it to use you.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.