Is Social Media Getting You Down?

Your average social media feed includes posts and pictures of romantic evenings with significant others, lavish vacations to exotic places, and people in peak physical condition sharing their exercise secrets. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” He wasn’t talking about Instagram or Facebook, but for some people, those words can be very true and very relevant to social media. Social media is great for staying in touch with friends and family, but some people may find that social media can be a source of depression or anxiety.

While it’s difficult to say that being active on social media can cause depression, studies show a connection between social media and depression.

Depression and multiple social media platforms

A recent study found that activity on multiple social media platforms corresponds to an increased risk for symptoms of depression and anxiety.

University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health surveyed 1,787 U.S. adults between the ages of 19 and 32. Participants who used between seven and eleven social media platforms were 3.1 times more likely to report higher levels of depression symptoms than those who used two or fewer platforms. The same group were also 3.3 times more likely to report high levels of anxiety symptoms.

The findings from this study suggest that the number of social media platforms a person uses corresponds to depression and anxiety more than the amount of time spent on social media platforms

It’s unclear whether the use of multiple social media platforms lends itself to symptoms of depression and anxiety or people who suffer depression and anxiety are more likely to use multiple social media platforms, but the connection is worth noting. The study’s lead author, Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D. said, “The association is strong enough that clinicians could consider asking their patients with depression and anxiety about multiple platform use and counseling them that this use may be related to their symptoms.”

How can social media lead to depression?

Different studies show a relationship between social media and depression, but how can social media cause symptoms of depression or anxiety?

  • Cyberbullying is a growing problem for children and adolescents. There was a time when bully victims could at least be safe at home, but that’s no longer the case with social media. The negative effects of bullying are well documented, and cyberbullying can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety.
  • People may start to compare their lives to the lives of others on social media. They may begin to feel jealous, anxious, or depressed about their own lives when comparing them to what they perceive as more exciting, enjoyable, or admirable lives on social media.
  • Individuals may find themselves compulsively checking social media rather than focusing on other aspects of their life. Neglecting obligations, responsibilities, or relationships can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety.

What can you do about social media and depression?

Social media isn’t bad, but it can have harmful effects.  It’s important to seek help if you feel depressed. Clinical depression is treatable. Don’t let stigma get in the way of seeking the medical assistance that you need. Contact your primary care physician, or meet with a mental health specialist today!