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Last Updated: Jan 10, 2023

Can Social Media Really Cause Depression?

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Dr. Ela GuptaPsychologist • 9 Years Exp.PhD - Psychology
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Social media is one thing that we all are hooked to. Well, almost all of us. It is a millennial thing. 94% of teens across the world actively use social media. They probably spend hours chatting with their loved ones on Whatsapp and Messenger, scrolling through their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, or simply clicking pictures using Snapchat filters. Whatever be the platform, you simply cannot get enough of it!

Social Media Affects Mental Health: Fact or a Myth

You must have heard of the presumed consequences of social media on youngsters. They are drastic enough to compel you into switching off your Smartphone. Previous studies have indicated that the overuse of social media can be addictive to young people. Other studies have linked social media use with lack of sleep, low self-esteem, and poor mental growth – all of which contribute to depression, anxiety and stress. However, the latest studies have dispelled the notion that social media adversely affects one’s mental well-being and causes depression and anxiety.

The Actual Effects of Social Media on Mental Health

During the study, a group of participants were divided into two separate groups. One comprised of 594 adolescents from classes VI, VII and VIII, while the other consisted of 1132 students pursuing graduation. A team of researchers surveyed the younger group once a year, for two years. The older students were surveyed annually for six long years. The survey questions were mostly focused on – how much time they spent on social media on weekends and weekdays, and how much time they allotted on activities like exercising, watching TV, doing homework etc. The research team also looked at signs of depression. The tool for measuring depression symptoms in the older, undergraduate participants were different from the one used for measuring the signs in younger people. Next, the team analyzed the data based on sex and age. The findings revealed that social media does not cause depressive symptoms later in life. This held true in both the adolescent and undergraduate groups. In fact, you would be surprised to hear that higher depression symptoms in female adolescents predicted later use of social media. Therefore, in case you feel a little upset or depressed over anything, turn to social media – it will instantly lift your mood up.

How to Cope with the Fear of Social Media?

When people, mostly parents and the elderly, come across headlines like ‘Facebook Depression’, there is an inherent assumption that Facebook causes depression. That is not the case. The findings of the study above suggest that overuse of Facebook or any social media platform for that matter has nothing to do with depression or poor mental health.

To reduce the fear of social media, we suggest you spend some time interacting with people, looking at cute and funny pet videos, following people who you feel inspire you and bring out the best in you. Also, follow the sites/pages that feature motivational quotes – start your day on a positive note!

Don’t Overdo It

Whether social media is a boon or a bane depends on how you make the most of it. Your individual personality plays a role in determining how social media impacts mental health. For example – a person might misuse social media to threat or commit a crime, while others may simply use it to keep in touch with family and friends. Spending a few hours on social media daily is not a bad thing and it does not necessarily contribute to psychological disorders like depression. However, you must remember not to turn it into a habit because overexposure to social media may cause ADHD, paranoia, or impulsive disorder. 

In case you have a concern or query you can always consult a specialist & get answers to your questions!

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