We live in a world of social media addiction and a virtual world that isn’t real. We’re online constantly: at home, work, the bus, school, and simply whenever we have down time. We’re barraged by what people choose to share — the best of themselves, and what they want you to believe about their lives.
No doubt about it, there are psychological effects of this new digital age that are only just being uncovered.
Depression and Social Media
Recently, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine conducted a study about the effects of social media habits on the moods of users.
This research found that the more time young adults use social media, the more likely they feel depressed.
According to their study, participants used social media 61 minutes per day and visited various social media accounts 30 times per week on average and more than a quarter of them were classified as having “high” indicators of depression.
How could Social Media cause Depression?
What we present on social media isn’t necessarily the truth of our lives. Rather, most are aware it's a thin veneer of a highly edited, idealized and exaggerated version of who we'd like to be. Still, it tends to bring out feelings of envy, a sense that others are happier than we are or living a more successful life.
Despite recognizing the shallowness of social media content, many still feel stuck in constant participation, then end up feeling empty, lost in meaningless exchanges that feel like a waste of time.
Spending significant time online exposes social media participants to cyber-bullying, invites gossip and judgment from others. While many who struggle with depression may use social media to fill a void, exposure also can strengthen depression, and so create a vicious cycle.
What can I do?
Set limits on how often you are on social media. Seek out offline interactions with friends and family. If you can, stop using a smart phone — the tendency to check updates and alerts is ever-present, and often they are not important.
If you find that you are unable to control your online behavior, seek professional help to break the compulsive cycle.