Social Media and Mental Health

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.


4 thoughts on “Social Media and Mental Health

  1. Allison Maria Magee

    I believe that social media is becoming a problem for many people today. So many people rely on social media to determine their level of happiness instead of real world experiences. Everyone is so caught up on what is happening on their screens that they don’t have a chance to enjoy the people and experiences around them. I do believe I am a culprit of this. I am constantly checking social media and feel that I must get a certain amount of “likes” on a post in order to keep my “social rank”. Isn’t that ridiculous! The pleasure people feel when they get the reaction they want on posts is almost scary. I’m all about sharing pictures with everyone, but the amount of “buzz” that a post gets should not be what classify’s a day as good or bad. I once checked how many hours I spent on a social media app a day and I calculated that amount for the whole year and noticed that if I kept checking social media the way that I did, I would be wasting tons of days in my life. I believe that this book would be an interesting read:
    In the description in mentions that teens may be affecting the quality of their life by being so involved on the social media spectrum. Personally, I believe technology is a blessing and a curse.

  2. Rachel Marie Aul

    This post intrigued me because I log onto social media several times a day. It’s a form of communication that is so prevalent in our society, and a form of communication that comes with many negative effects. Countless articles ( ) display the negative affects social media can have on us. In my junior year English class, we further discussed this matter, and talked about how social media acts as a forum for cyber bullying and can lower young children’s’ self esteem. You did a great job pointing out the flaws in some of your sources. In my psychology class, we learned that introspection can lead to bias, because the subjects tend to answer questions how they think the surveyors want them to answer the questions, thus yielding unreliable results. We grew up in an age where social media was just beginning, so we did not have much information on the detrimental effects social media can have. However, hopefully since theses studies are starting to come out, we can inform our children in today’s world and teach them how to deal with social media in the correct way.

  3. Olivia Frederickson

    I think this is a very productive research topic to explore since our generation utilizes social media frequently every day. Your research was very thorough and explored to topic well although and you made the inference that an inverse correlation is possible, I think you still need to relate it back to class discussion a little more by using some more of the terms we learned such as stating the different hypotheses that are possible. Back to this topic, I find this something really hard for me to deal with sometimes because when I feel down and see my friends on social media who are having fun in their posts, it sometimes worsens my mode and makes me feel left out. Especially being separated from my friends at home for the first time who went to college close to home, I feel left out somewhat. Although I know that feeling like this is wrong, I think further research can be conducted to help people from feeling like this from social media. Also, for young women especially, there is an even worse body image issue that I notice can be spurred from social media. ThisTIME article explains this issue further and gives reliable references from psychologists. With body-image issues, eating-disorders can sometimes arise, which can lead to or worsen mental health issues. This effect on mental-health is really important to me because I know so many people who suffer from such exhausting and tragic disorders. All in all, I agree media can be a trap for us, especially younger people who deal with self-image issues on a day to day basis.

  4. Lucille Laubenstein

    What troubles me about the second example you provided, is that it is making assumptions on a person’s emotional state based on posts. We all know that the presence that we choose to portray online might not exactly reflect reality. Is there any real way to tell whether or not the two have any definitive correlation?

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