Social Media and Mental Health

Can using social media frequently impact our mental health? Studies are starting to show that this may be the case.

A study came out of the University of Pennsylvania which had two groups of students. One group was able to continue using social media regularly; the other group was to only use social media for 30 minutes a day.

The researchers took a baseline at the beginning of the study to view the group’s general sense of well-being, FOMO, depression, self-esteem, anxiety, and self-acceptance. At the end of the three-week trial, the students who limited their use of social media had an overall increased sense of well-being. 

A telling quote from the study: “We found overall that if you use less social media, you were actually less depressed and less lonely, meaning that the decreased use of social media is what causes the qualitative shift in your well-being.” 

In light of these findings, the study suggests we change the way we consume social media and encourage users to proactively monitor time spent on social.

There has always been a correlation between increased social media use and wellbeing, but this study has proven more than just correlation, it’s more or less proof that general well-being will suffer the more one consumes social media. 

Something to keep in mind: social media is new. Personally, I think in the year 2075 my grandkids are going to say to me, “oh, you’re such an idiot. You gave your kids phones at that age?!?  What were you thinking?” Similar to how I see women who celebrated their pregnancy with a glass of champagne.

Another study showed people who are on social media late at night have higher levels of unhappiness.

Why is this such big deal? 

Simple because of the amount of time spent in front of digital screens. It is estimated that youth/young adults between the ages of eight and 28 spend 44.5 hours online. This was estimated before the pandemic, so we can safely assume those numbers have increased. 

This is detrimental as studies continue to be published showing the links between anxiety and depression, specifically linked to social media. 

Teen suicide has increased dramatically. From 2010 to 2017, it increased 56%, according to the U.S. Department of Health. Some are linking this to the advent of the smartphone in 2007. Prior to 2007, the rates of anxiety and depression were pretty steady. When the smartphone was widely adopted in 2011, the suicide rate shot up, which is associated with the non-stop, 24-hour information in our hands at all times.

A recent article from The Atlantic explained why teens are more unhappy, and they cited social media as one reason.

Now more than ever, it’s important to educate ourselves and others about the link between social media usage and wellbeing, anxiety and depression, and suicide rates.