Depression is no laughing matter. It is a serious, life-threatening condition that proves fatal to over 25,000 Americans per year when figuring that between 50 and 75 percent of all suicides are due to depression. So anything we can do to reduce depression is worth doing.
Engadget reports on a study from the University of Pennsylvania that shows “social media limits made people feel less lonely.”
“The team enlisted the help of 143 undergraduate students who completed a survey regarding their mental well-being and who had to submit screenshots of their iPhones’ batteries for three weeks. They were separated into two groups: a control group that maintained their current social media behavior and an experimental group that limited their time on the three social media networks to 10 minutes per platform per day. The researchers found that those who spent less time on the three platforms showed ‘significant reductions in loneliness.'”
This is the first study of its kind to show a causal link between social media and decreased well-being. The social media outlets studied were Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. The team leader, Melissa Hunt, indicated that when limiting one’s time on social media, the decrease in depression and loneliness was significant.
She further speculates that the reason particular types of social media may facilitate depression in the first place is because of the culture of comparison. On a platform like Instagram, everyone gets their insecurities reinforced. It is clear that almost everyone is better looking, happier, travels more, has closer friends, and a happier family life. Even their lunch is more appetizing.
On Facebook and Twitter, everyone is more religious, more atheist, more politically involved, more witty, more connected, and more followed and beloved than you. That is how it starts to look. By comparison, you start to feel a little inadequate.
Hunt admits that there is more work to be done and the conclusions are not perfect. Her conclusions only covered Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. But other social media platforms may have a different and more positive effect.
The loneliness component could have as much to do with spending so much time on the smartphone as opposed to actually socializing with other people in physical space. The effect may not be limited to social media.
Both iOS and Android have built-in mechanisms to help you track and limit your time on the smartphone, including specific social media apps. There is currently no data showing that these measures are having any effect on time spent on social media or the smartphone.