Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Link Between Depression And Social Media

I've been saying this for a long time, but more and more research is coming out about the downside of social media.  

I read an interesting article in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology" this week that links social media with depression and loneliness.  It was found in a study that clinically depressed participants saw noticeable improvement by limiting social media exposure to ten minutes a day during the course of the study.  In fact, many of the participants in the study with moderate clinical depression finished the study a few weeks later with only mild symptoms remaining.

There were a few reasons cited for the link between depression and social media.  First, it is without a doubt addictive.  It was designed to be that way.  There's a constant fear we're "missing something" if we don't check in on a regular basis.

It also removes us and isolates us from real social interaction--it replaces that with fake social interaction.  We've all seen families or groups in restaurants staring at their phones instead of interacting with each other in person.

It often erodes our self-esteem.  We see of people on social media what they want us to see--an often idealized version of their real life.  We all do it, but over time, it can lead many people to feeling as if their life sucks compared to all the pictures and happy posts they see from everyone else.

And there's a negative side of social media--it divides us.  Anyone that posts an opinion no matter what the subject is likely to be attacked over it.  Whether it's on politics, or the environment, or even a restaurant.  I say that because I mentioned a restaurant I liked a few weeks ago and was attacked because somebody got terrible service there, and thought it was dirty, and "heard" it was going to be shut down by the health department (oddly enough this coming from an individual that lives 800 miles away).  Very often, what we're seeing and the way we're interacting on social media isn't positive. 

There's another downside of social media to employers--huge drops in productivity due to social media usage during work hours.  One large company reported that after a review of their networks, they discovered their employees were using social media at work an average of four hours per day!  Four hours!  At work!

Our feelings about social media are beginning to change.  We're starting to see the negative side-effects of this electronic world--along with a healthy suspicion about those who are running these platforms and how they're manipulating us and using our data.

I'm going to be working on limiting my screen time on social media, but like many in the study, I find that's difficult for the very reason they cited--I feel like I'm going to miss something.  My effort is going to involve being on social media for a few minutes in the morning, a few minutes at lunch, and a few minutes in the evening.  Long enough to connect, but not long enough to fall into one of those long session of scrolling, and scrolling, and scrolling.

I've also been paying more attention to the screen time app on my phone--watching how much time I'm spending using my phone not only for social media, but messaging and emailing, shopping, looking up information.

Have a look at your own investment of time--are you using social media, or is social media using you?

~Todd E. Creason

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