In today’s society, social media has taken the world by storm. Billions of people worldwide use social media constantly every day. This effect is especially true, where social media has become a staple of communication and interaction. However, what are the effects that this heavy use of social media is having on our mood and psychology? Could it be that using social media is, in fact, bad for us?
A study done in 2012 in the UK found results that use of social media networks could be causing depression and anxiety. Participants exhibited addiction to social media, reporting the only way they could stop themselves from checking it was to turn off their device. However, they could in fact be addicted to something that is having huge negative effects on their mental health. Many participants in the study reported feeling less confident about themselves when they compared themselves to their friends’ achievements they viewed on social media. However, overall this study is not entirely compelling. The study was only conducted with 298 people, making it a small study and therefore does not provide as strong of results. It also was only conducted only on people in the UK, meaning it is not necessarily a conducive result for Americans or the global population. Additionally, the study was merely a survey, meaning it could not have controlled for confounding variables or an inverse correlation that people who have mental health issues like depression and anxiety use social media more. Overall, this study points us in the direction that there could be a an issue with social media use, but does not go a long way towards proving this is the case.
Another study conducted in 2013 by the University of Michigan provides similar results. The study examined 82 Facebook users. They were asked questions everyday about their levels of happiness and satisfaction to establish a baseline. Then, they increased their social media usage for a 14 day period and were asked the same questions. The results showed that their general state of happiness decreased over the period of increased social media usage. However, again this study is not entirely conclusive. It was only conducted on 82 people, making it another small study. It too, was also a survey, albeit a more scientifically conducted one, but still a survey. This means they did not control for confounding variables, and they also only used people who were already active on Facebook, which could have some effect on the results. In conclusion, this study again points towards the fact that social media usage may have ill effects on mental health, however is not scientifically compelling enough to prove the point.
Further confounding a conclusion on the topic is the fact that there are study results that conclude a positive effect from social media usage on mood and mental health. A study done by the University of California, San Diego concluded that emotion is “contagious”, spreading from person to person, and this effect applies to social media. They also found, when testing over a billion Facebook posts, that posts were contagious, with happy or negative posts leading to friends being more likely to post statuses of this same emotion. However, the study found that happy posts were overall more “contagious”, and they even concluded that the contagious nature of interactions online was even stronger than they had predicted and their study was unable to fully measure the effect. However, this study is highly correlational as it relies on computer software to determine the emotional content of posts and does not provide concrete, science based evidence of the effects the researchers concluded.
Overall, this idea of social media affecting human mental health is still very much left up for debate, and is still being researched. A study conducted as recently as 2014 concluded that while there seems to be a suggested correlation between social media and ill mental health, we still really don’t know. However, with the number of users on social media and with the frequency of its use, it is crucial we continue research on this topic to get to the bottom of a conclusion, before social media takes a toll on all of us.