When people think of our generation one of the first things that is mentioned is our addiction to technology, and in particular our addiction to social media. I do not think anyone here can really claim that they are not addicted to social media. My mother is constantly telling me to get off my phone, or that I am too addicted to snapchat and instagram. All someone needs to do to see the pervasiveness of this epidemic is to look around at the mobs of people walking to class with their faces buried in their phones. While this addiction maybe keeping our parents up at night, there is another even more worrying trend among this country’s population, and that is depression.
Depression affects more than 27 million Americans and is believed to be responsible for the more than 30,000 suicides each year. This illness makes up more disability claims than all other mental health disorders. By the year 2030 depression is predicted to become the leading cause of disability in first world countries.
Could these two trends potentially be related? Social media, such as facebook and twitter allow individuals to share their thoughts and emotions around a variety of happenings in everyday life. Social media is a platform that can become a remarkably powerful tool for people to share their beliefs. Uses such as these can allow social media to become a greater force for good, but conversely the emotional connection people feel towards their social media, be it a release or a constant competition to have more and more likes; creating an artificial sense of connection detracting from real world connections that can be made in person with real people.
To test the hypothesis that social media is a cause of depression I looked into two different studies. The first used a sample size of 193 college students. The method used by this study included students being sent 43 surveys consisting of 9 questions over the course of 7 days. The questions focused on the amount of time spent on social media and depression. The result of this study came to the conclusion that there was no significant association observed between the use of social media and the probability of reporting any depression.
On the backing of this study alone I believe that more research is necessary due to the relatively small sample size, as well as the very short length of time that this study was conducted for. In response to this study, I decided to look for a larger longitudinal study that I believed would be able to produce stronger evidence to support either the hypothesis that social media is a cause of depression, or to verify the null hypothesis that this study found stating that in fact social media has no causal relation to depression.
The second study I found used a much larger sample size of 1,787 adults ranging from 19-32. This study in contrast to the last was carried out in the course of two months. While this study still did not provide the time length I was looking for it was certainly better than the last. Similarly to the last study this one assessed depression and social media use by asking participant to fill out a 4 point scale on the frequency and strength of depression they felt, as well as asking how long they used social media and which sites they used. Unlike the last study this one found a linear association between social media use and depression.
While there may be some unknown mechanisms that might explain the finding that social media leads to depression. I believe that it may be that individuals with depression may tend to use social media more frequently than the general population. This ties into my theory that people with depression may turn to the artificial community that is social media for a sense of validation and self-worth.Another reason that people with depression may turn to social media, is that it allows for individuals with depression interactions that could lead to a feeling of connection without the social pressures of face-to-face interactions.
In conclusion, I believe that for a definitive answer to be found on this topic, a large longitudinal study that spans over the course of multiple months, or even years is needed. This could allow for researchers to observe whether there are long term effects of social media on depression. A study such as this would collect more data and could have a more conclusive answer than the current short term studies.
Lin, Liu Yi. “SSOCIATION BETWEEN SOCIAL MEDIA USEAND DEPRESSION AMONG U.S. YOUNG ADULTS.” Wiley Online Library. Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2016. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.
Jelenchick, Lauren A. ““Facebook Depression?” Social Networking Site Use and Depression in Older Adolescents.” ScienceDirect. Journal of Adolescent Health, Jan. 2013. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.