The Effects of Social Media on Depression

We’re all guilty of it: mindlessly scrolling through our social media feeds whenever we get a few spare moments. Sometimes, those minutes extend to hours. Those hours are killing us, and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Our collective psychology is being harmed and the outlook doesn’t look good.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns us regarding the possibility of negative impacts of social media in children and teens, including so-called “Facebook depression” and cyberbullying. However, the threat is very real to adults as well, and it spans across generations, says Forbes.

By the Numbers

The use of many social media platforms has been linked with depression and anxiety risk, according to Psychiatric News. Research has long suggested a connection between spending lots of time on social media and negative health outcomes. But new evidence is coming out that suggests whether it’s distracting attention from using several social media platforms or the emotional consequences of having negative online experiences, it’s the quality—rather than quantity in many cases—of social media engagement that have a bigger impact on mood and well-being.

One study in particular, published in Computers in Human Behavior, revealed that the use of multiple social media platforms is more notably linked to depression and anxiety disorders among young people than the amount of time spent online. Researchers surveyed 1800 young adults about their time spent on the top social media platforms, ranging from Facebook and YouTube to Instagram and Snapchat.

Those who reported using the most platforms (up to 11) had more than three times the risk of depression and anxiety than those who claimed to use the least amount (no more than two).

Why is this Happening?

All of these studies beg the question: why does excessive social media use cause depression? Is it a result of so much time spent online or are depressed people more likely to use social media excessively? It becomes necessary to examine how social media applications hijack human psychology.

It’s the goal of all social media platforms to keep their users online as long as possible so they can impart as many advertising messages to as many people as possible. They do this by adding addiction triggers that reward individuals for staying online for longer periods of time. You can equate this to the release of the feel-good chemical dopamine that gives gamblers and alcoholics a feeling of reward and pleasure. Social media applications are also fraught with such dopamine release triggers. We all crave the likes, comments and notifications we get on our phone through social apps that make us feel as though we belong. PsychCentral calls these “brain hacks” that trick us into this way of thinking and that create positive feelings of acceptance. When we don’t get this dopamine release from our apps and phones, we begin to feel fear, anxiety and loneliness. See that? That’s the door to depression.

This isn’t to say that everyone who spends lots of time on social media platforms will get depressed. Many people get depressed who aren’t on social media at all. This is just one contributing factor to the overall disease of major depression, which is on the rise across the board but particularly among teens and millennials.

You don’t have to live with depression due to social media or any other cause for that matter. We can help. Contact Comprehensive MedPsych Systems at 941-363-0878. Here, you will have access to compassionate, skilled therapists who have experience treating a wide variety of mental health disorders and issues, including depression.

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