It has been known for a while now that social media can have a deeper effect on the mind than we might realize. However, the exact connection between social media usage and mental health has not been measured specifically. That is, until now. According to TechCrunch, a study out of Penn State found that lowering time spent on social media platforms can actually help reduce feelings of loneliness and depression.
This study focused on 143 college students from Penn State. Some of those being studied were instructed to limit their time on social media to 10 minutes for the duration of the study. Others were told to engage in their social media habits as they normally would. To ensure they followed the rules, the subjects of the study were monitored via the IOS battery usage screen.
The participants were regularly monitored throughout the experiment to gauge their mental health and social support, as well as find any signs of depression. The purpose was to see how much social esteem can be built or destroyed via social media. It was also to see whether the social support one might receive through social media really helps effectively boost one’s mood.
Researchers did find a positive causal link between cutting back on social media and an improved overall state of mental health. The reason behind this is merely speculation, but researchers believe it because of the social comparison that occurs on social media. Melissa Hunt from the Penn State psychology department led the experiment and commented upon this social comparison that can be detrimental to self-esteem.
“Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens. When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours. When you’re not busy getting sucked into clickbait social media, you’re actually spending more time on things that are more likely to make you feel better about your life.”
Hunt emphasized that social media typically only shows the best snapshots of one life. It leaves out the tough stuff and the bad days, creating an image that might not always be genuine. While some might be able to handle heavy social media usage without any negative mental effects, others should consider stepping away. “In general, I would say, put your phone down and be with the people in your life,” Hunt said.