Mental Health and Social Media Part 2: Social Media and Ties to Depression

Hi there, and welcome back!

This is a companion post to a previous blog post I made on Mental Health and Social Media. In this post I discuss some articles related to social media and the negative effects it has on the mental health of young adults.

During my holiday readings, the second concept that I explored was the impact of social media on the mental health of young adults. I’ve heard stories of how young people who use social media such as Instagram fall into traps where they view someone else’s curated photos on Instagram, compare their lives to what they see online, and end up feeling sad for themselves.

“Seeing friends constantly on holiday or enjoying nights out can make young people feel like they are missing out while others enjoy life,” the #StatusOfMind report states. “These feelings can promote a ‘compare and despair’ attitude.” – StatusOfMind


There is even some early studies showing a correlation of social media platforms to mental distress.

In 2014, researchers asked 1,787 millenials (who famously use more social media than older generations) how often they checked 11 popular networks: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google Plus, Tumblr, and Vine.

The participants, all between the ages of 19 and 32, were also assessed for depression and anxiety. It turns out, those who used seven or more platforms had more than triple the risk for anxiety and depressive symptoms, compared to those who between zero and two.

Source: “Millennials Who Use More Social Media Sites Have Higher Depression, Anxiety” by 

I think these articles and surveys suggest there’s a connection between mental health and the social platforms that we engage on. Possibly in support of this connection, there are some studies showing that people with depression use the internet differently.

For example one study done by the Missouri University of Science and Technology in 2011 which showed that people with depression use the internet in a different way than healthy individuals.

Frequent email checking may relate with high levels of anxiety, which in-turn correlates with depressive symptoms. It is also theorized that email addiction is a form of impulsive-compulsive disorder in the sense that victims (especially young people) suffer from a compulsive and irresistible need to check messages (often even in the middle of the night). – Excerpt from ‘Associating Internet Usage with Depressive Behavior among College Students’


And another preliminary study done by a grad student at Harvard found patterns in what kinds of pictures depressives post to Instagram

Depressed people were less likely to use any filters at all, but when they did use filters they went for Inkwell, which makes everything black and white,” Reece says. “And depressed people have fewer faces in their photos, but they tend to post more photos with faces.”

Source: ‘Instagramming In Black And White? Could Be You’re Depressed’ by NPR Health

Social media is relatively new to us, and while there is plenty of active research ongoing, I think that and the psychology and sociology studies have not yet caught up. We should all at least be wary that our social media use has ties to our mental health and happiness.



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