On the surface, social media may seem to have a positive impact in our lives. After all, they are platforms where we can reconnect with friends and relatives who are geographically separated from us or whom we haven’t spoken to for years. However, many can get caught up into the virtual world of social media that it becomes about far more than reconnecting.
Social Media and Depression
A very recent study on this topic has looked into the direct relationship between the psychological health of teenagers ages 11-17 and the time they spent on social media platforms. The study, which was presented in September 2015 at the British Psychological Society conference in Manchester and yet to be published, showed that night-time specific usage of social media may cause poorer sleep quality, lower self esteem and higher risk of anxiety and depression among teenagers.
While the researchers consider this as another piece of evidence into the theory that social media use can affect well-being, they admitted that the real causes why this is so are yet to be established.
Use of Facebook
A number of studies have shown that social networking is linked with depression among adolescents. Steers, M., Wickham, R. & Acitelli, L. (2014) found in the first part of their study that Facebook can be linked to depressive symptoms through the already well-established psychological phenomenon known as “social comparison.” This is when you compare the mundane parts of your life to the “highlight reels” your Facebook friends posted on their walls.
In the second part of the study, they tried to tap the differences between the three types of social comparisons, namely: upward, downward and nondirectional. Upward social comparisons happen when you look at someone better than yourself in different aspects, such as external appearances and material ownership. Downward social comparison, on the other hand, is when you look down on people and think you are more superior. In nondirectional social comparisons, you simply compare yourself with others with no particular “direction.” It turned out that the subjects in the study showed depressive symptoms across the three types of comparisons.
The research concluded that Facebook interaction may negatively affect the psychological health of those who use the platform. Moreover, the more one spends time on the networking site, the higher is the chance for them to spontaneously engage in social comparisons. As a result, they may suffer from depressive symptoms.
Adolescence is the stage of increased vulnerability for anxiety and depression. This is when teenagers navigate through the maze of finding what they want, who they truly are and where they can fit in.
Although teen years can be really tough, many can get through the angst through good friendships, loving family, success in school, outdoor and extracurricular activities, and an overall positive outlook in life. Teenagers do experience the occasional blues, but when it comes to depression, it’s a different thing altogether.
Numerous studies regarding the relationship between social media usage and depression among teens can pave the way to better understanding on how this vulnerable population can be helped.
Steps to Consider
Giving up social media once and for all may not be the solution. The attitude towards social media could be the better answer. For teenagers, here are some tips to balance your need to check your social media account and maintaining a positive mind.
By Dr. Syras Derksen
2015, September 11. Pressure t be available 24/7 on social media causes teen anxiety and depression. University News - University of Glasgow. Retrieved from http://www.gla.ac.uk/news/headline_419871_en.html
Steers, M., Wickham, R. & Acitelli, L., 2014. Seeing Everyone Else’s Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. 33(8): 701-731; doi: 10.1521/jscp.2014.33.8.701