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Social Media and Depression: What's the Connection?

Posted May 20, 2019 by S. Renee Fierro, LPCCs Director, Outpatient Behavioral Health Services

Social Media blog

Have you ever wondered about the impact of social media on mental health? Social media has drastically changed the ways we communicate and socialize with others. In many ways, social media has had a positive impact; but the experiences can also be extremely negative, cyberbullying for example. Concerns regarding the impact of social media have resulted in a number of studies that look at the connection between social media and depression or anxiety. Not surprisingly, the results have been inconsistent.

It’s important to understand that many studies focus on a single point in time and rely primarily on self-report. These studies often find a negative impact on mental health, but do not definitively determine that social media causes depression or anxiety. Other studies have found that those who experience depression or anxiety unrelated to social media, can experience an increase in symptoms the longer they spend on social media on a daily basis (i.e., 5 hours vs 30 minutes). This increase in symptoms is often more likely to be seen in adolescent females than males. To truly determine a connection between social media and mental health, more studies need to be conducted over a longer period of time.

Two recent longitudinal studies found that high utilization of social media did not lead to depression. This is good news for parents/significant others who fear the negative impacts of technology. What is most critical, is understanding how people use social media. For example, if it’s used to compare oneself to others, there could be negative results on the user’s mental health. This is more likely to be true for those who are already suffering from depression or anxiety.

More research is needed to fully understand the impact of social media on mental health. It’s important to keep an open-mind and to recognize when the use of social media is having unhealthy consequences. If you feel more depressed or anxious while using social media, then start by reducing the time spent on social media and pursue alternative activities that are more rewarding.

Roughly 3 billion people worldwide use social media, so we know for sure that social media is not going away and it will continue to significantly impact our lives in many ways. Despite the negative concerns, there are positive consequences, such as allowing for new ways to connect to others and access to healthier lifestyle options. For these reasons, it is critical to find ways to keep a healthy balance between use of social media and your mental health. The following are some options for achieving this balance:

  • Reduce your screen time - on all digital devices. We literally have access to the world in our hands and smartphones can keep our eyes entertained for hours. Pair that with most of us working in front of a computer screen and you’re spending hours looking at a device. There are apps that can help you track your digital time card and set recommended daily goals. If your default is to open your phone, try taking a book for wait times or heading outdoors for a stroll now that the weather is warming up.
  • Find supportive groups and community. Social media has helped countless users connect with people from all sides of the planet that enjoy the same activities, authors, books, you name it! It’s inspired mental health awareness campaigns, body-positive movements and given younger users access to information that helps keep them safe. While it can be toxic for those who abuse it, connecting with supportive, positive people is a step in the right direction.
  • Identify unhealthy accounts and avoid them. It’s important to remember that anything on the internet can be edited to create an entirely different image or video. The digital sphere can be used to spread negative and incorrect or incomplete information.

Millions of Americans experience mental health issues every year. The symptoms related to these conditions can disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Summa Health Behavioral Health Institute can help you experience relief from symptoms while gathering hope for new possibilities in your life. We practice a patient-centered philosophy and are committed to meeting each patient’s mental health needs in a holistic manner. For more information, call 330.379.8190 in Akron, 330.615.5460 in Barberton and 330.319.9755 in Hudson. Treatment is available for a broad range of behavioral health issues including, but not limited to: anxiety, schizophrenia, depression and substance abuse.


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