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Loneliness And Depression Can Be Linked to Social Media: Study

It is unclear if the depressing effects of social media will cross generational lines to older or younger people

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Study Links Social Media Addicts, Substance Abusers. (VOA)

University of Pennsylvania researchers say that for the first time they have linked social media use to increases in depression and loneliness.

The idea that social media is anything but social when it comes to mental health has been talked about for years, but not many studies have managed to actually link the two.

To do that, Penn researchers, led by psychologist Melissa Hunt, designed a study that focused on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

The results were published in the November issue of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

Social media. Offensive Speech
An iPhone with Twitter, Facebook and other apps, May 21, 2013. U.S. internet companies are taking a harder look at their policies that have promoted free expression around the world.. VOA

How study worked

The study was conducted with 143 participants, who before they began, completed a mood survey and sent along photos of their battery screens, showing how often they were using their phones to access social media.

“We set out to do a much more comprehensive, rigorous study that was also more ecologically valid,” Hunt said. That term, ecologically valid, means that the research attempts to mimic real life.

The study divided the participants into two groups: The first group was allowed to maintain their normal social media habits. The other, the control group, was restricted to 10 minutes per day on each of the three platforms: Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

The restrictions were put in place for three weeks and then the participants returned and were tested for outcomes such as fear of missing out (FOMO), anxiety, depression and loneliness.

Social Media
Chiara Valenzano, right, photographs her food as she has lunch with her friend Giulia Terranova at the ‘This is not a Sushi bar’ restaurant, in Milan, Italy, Oct. 16, 2018. At the restaurant, payment can be made according to the number of Instagram followers one has. VOA

Results of study

The results showed a very clear link between social media use and increased levels of depression and loneliness.

“Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness,” Hunt said. “These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”

She calls her findings the “grand irony” of social media.

What is it about social media that’s just so depressing?

Hunt says that it’s two major things. The first is that social media invites what Hunt calls “downward social comparison.” When you’re online, it can sometimes seem that “everyone else is cooler and having more fun and included in more things and you’re left out,” she said. And that’s just generally demoralizing.

Social Media
The study was conducted with 143 participants, who before they began, completed a mood survey Pixabay

The second factor is a bit more nuanced.

“Time is a zero-sum game,” Hunt told VOA. “Every minute you spend online is a minute you are not doing your work or not meeting a friend for dinner or having a deep conversation with your roommate.”

And these real life activities are the ones that can bolster self-esteem and self worth, Hunt said.

What to learn

So what’s the takeaway?

social media
A girl uses her mobile phone in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 5, 2017. A researcher in Britain says her findings suggest young girls who are more active on social media have lower levels of well-being in their teens. VOA

People are on their devices, and that’s not going to change, she said. But as in life, a bit of moderation goes a long way.

“In general, I would say, put your phone down and be with the people in your life,” she added.

Also Read: Childhood Violence May Spur Puberty, Depression: Study

Hunt pointed out a few caveats to the study. First, it was done exclusively with 18- to 22-year-olds, and it is unclear if the depressing effects of social media will cross generational lines to older or younger people, Hunt said. But she expects her results should generalize at least for people through the age of 30.

Hunt says she is now beginning a study to gauge the emotional impact of dating apps. (VOA)

Next Story

#GonnaTellMyKids Goes Trending on Twitter

A picture of Bollywood actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui posted by one user with a remark: "Gonna tell my kids that he is a don"

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Twitter
A picture of a Transformer movie character accompanied a Twitter post: "Gonna tell my kids that he killed Shah Rukh Khan in Ra.One." Pixabay

Twitter users had witty comments to offer as hashtag ‘gonnatellmykids’ trended on the social media platform on Thursday, garnering 1411 tweets.

Users posted pictures of Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Paresh Rawal etc to post light-hearted remarks and memes.

One user wrote: “Gonna tell my kids that I used to tweet dumb tweets which rarely got a retweet”.

A user posted a picture of Bollywood superstar Salman Khan posing with a high-end car and remarked” “Gonna tell mahh kids dat he was a best car driver ever.”

One post had throwback pictures of Bollywood actors Chunky Pandey and Govinda along with the comment: “Gonna tell my kids that he was the real TonyStark and SuperMan”.

Twitter
Twitter users had witty comments to offer as hashtag ‘gonnatellmykids’ trended on the social media platform on Thursday, garnering 1411 tweets. Pixabay

A picture of a Transformer movie character accompanied a post: “Gonna tell my kids that he killed Shah Rukh Khan in Ra.One.”

A user posted a picture of a crying Salman Khan and remarked: “When you realise that you can’t use the “gonna tell my kids” memes”.

ALSO READ:Now Google Includes Lens to its Chrome Browser for Smartphones

A picture of Bollywood actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui posted by one user with a remark: “Gonna tell my kids that he is a don.” (IANS)