The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, linked passive social media use (PSMU) to symptoms of depression, such as loneliness and fatigue. Researchers from the University of Amsterdam recruited 125 students and asked them to passively use social media seven times a day for 14 days. A special app that contains a 12-item questionnaire about depression prompted participants to answer them at fixed times of the day.
The results showed that negative well-being compelled people to go on social media. “Feelings of fatigue and loneliness at a given prompt predicted PSMU at the next prompt, indicating that certain depression symptoms might lead individuals to scroll through social media feeds,” said George Aalbers, the lead author of the study.
“We also found that passive social media use at a given prompt co-occurred with a loss of interest, concentration problems, fatigue and loneliness at the same prompt. However, we don’t know whether PSMU causes these symptoms or vice versa.”
Aalbers further explained that their findings show the correlation between social media and mental health is more complicated than just social media causing depression. Instead, their study suggests that depressive symptoms are linked to specific social media behavior. (Related: Social media users are more likely to conform to the perceived group opinion, censoring their own unpopular views.)
In another study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania also investigated the relationship between depression and social media. They wanted to find out if the duration of social media use has any effect on the mental health of a person.
The researchers asked 143 students to participate in the study and divided them into two groups. They asked the students assigned to the experimental group to limit their social media use to 40 minutes per day and instructed the students in the control group to continue as usual. They found that the students in the experimental group experienced a decline in loneliness and depressive symptoms.
"What we found overall is that if you use less social media, you are actually less depressed and less lonely, meaning that the decreased social media use is what causes that qualitative shift in your well-being,” said Jordyn Young, co-author of the study.
While it may be impossible to avoid social media altogether, decreasing the amount of time you spend aimlessly scrolling through random feeds can do wonders for your mental health. Passive social media use can help relieve boredom, but it can also lead to negative feelings of jealousy and worthlessness. And although it offers an easy way to interact with people, limiting the amount of time you spend online can lead to a happier and stress-free life.
For more information about social media and its connection to mental health, visit Brain.news.