THE LINK BETWEEN SOCIAL MEDIA AND DEPRESSION
In recent years, we have seen a steep hike in the use of social media, especially amongst young adults. The wide variety of social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn seem to offer something for everyone. However, research shows that there may be a darker side to this social phenomenon.
A recent University of Pittsburgh study found depression to be correlated with increasing use of social media. Correlation is not the same as causation, and the researchers noted depression is not necessarily caused by social media. One of the researchers, Dr. Brian Primack, stated that it is likely that social media has a worsening effect on those who are already depressed. One core reason is that social media can present idealized representations of peers and their lives, which can lead to feeling dissatisfied or unhappy with one’s own life.
Using social media also has some important advantages, such as staying connected with friends/family, building a community, as well as improving social skills. In addition, social media fluency has quickly become a sought after skill in various professions. Some social media sites provide help to those who show signs of depression in their online behaviour. For example, Tumblr redirects people to a page with mental health resources if anyone searches using terms such as “depressed” or “suicidal”. There are also various chat forums that people can access online to discuss mental health issues with other forum members who are experiencing the same issues.
Given the information above, it is clear that quitting social media is not the answer. According to Dr. Primack, there needs to be a balance between positive social media use and “redirecting from problematic use”. The latter will most likely involve the help of experts such as physicians, counsellors, and psychologists who may need to do further research on the health effects of this evolving social phenomenon so that they can help clients find a healthy balance. What is perhaps the most important is that individuals become aware of the negative impacts of using social media as well as seek help and support when they recognize the first signs of depression.
O’Keefe, G., Clarke-Pearson, K., Council on Communications and Media. (2011). The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families. Pediatrics, 127. Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/4/800.short
Social media use associated with depression among US young adults (2016, March 22). University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. Retrieved from https://www.upmc.com
Ye, Josh (n.d.). Pitt study links frequent social media use & depression in young adults. The Pitt News. Retrieved from https://www.pittnews.com