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article imageAssociation between social media and depression

By Tim Sandle     Dec 16, 2016 in Health
Melbourne - There is an increasing number of reports about the impact of social media on the lives of people, especially young people, and the association with depression, anxiety and stress. A new study has looked into this.
Problems have arisen from some of the negative effects from using social media for some time, especially the effect interacting through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and so on, on young people in relation to mental health. While many people can use social media confidently and draw a great deal of satisfaction from daily interactions, there has been a notable rise in reported incidences of cyberbullying, sexting and victimisation (for example, in Australia, according to one survey, 72 percent of school children stated they had experienced at least one incident of bullying on-line). In some cases this has triggered depression, self-harm and even suicide. Adverse feedback from sexting (an expression of sexuality via technology), for example, can lead to dislike of one's own body image (even causing body dimorphism).
One of the factors that can trigger mental health problems is the tendency, be that peer pressure or a drive to present an alternative virtual presence, for some people to try to construct profiles that convey an image of a perfect life. With this, they may experience cognitive dissonance with their 'real lives' or react adversely when these constructed images are challenged by others (as through, for example cyberbullying).
How widespread are these mental health related social media concerns? Peggy Kern, who is a Senior Lecturer in Positive Psychology, University of Melbourne, together with Liz Seabrook and Dr Nikki Rickard, ran a systematic review of 70 different studies that examined social media use and the association with depression, anxiety and mental well being. The outcome was that social media "is not all good, nor all bad. It’s more about how you use it."
The study outcomes are interesting:
1. Tone: The key difference between social media users who reported high well-being versus those with depression or anxiety was down to what they wrote about and what they didn't write about, and the tone and context in relation to what was written. Writing angry thoughts and expressing negative emotions more often can become partly self-fulfilling. People who are, or become, more depressed tend to post negative images or text.
2. Interactions: The researchers found a link between depression and negative interactions with other people. This was either a tendency to be more critical and cutting others down; or, feeling criticized by others or receiving hostile comments. The best advice is not to engage in negative discussions and to terminate conversations that seem to becoming negative.
3. Time online: Although the impact is less clear-cut, there is a possible relationship between depression and other mental health issues and the amount of time spent on-line with a possible greater chance of a mental health issue proportionality rising as the time spent on-line increases. Given that young people spend the most time on-line the risk is greatest here. One factor that drives young people to want to stay connected is "a fear of missing out."
4. Passive and active use: The research found that passive use of social media (simply scrolling through posts) had no effect on mental health; whereas with active use, this depended on whether the use was more inclined to write negative or positive comments (with those who wrote negative comments most often having a higher association with depression).
5. Social comparisons: Those who tended to make constant comparisons with other people often felt less good about themselves and this could, in some cases, lead to mental health issues.
6. Motivation: People use social media for different reasons. However, those who use it for social support can often feel let down and this leads to negative feelings and emotions (and again this can lead to mental health issues).
The research has been published in the journal JMIR Mental Health and it is headed "Social Networking Sites, Depression, and Anxiety: A Systematic Review."
Some social media sites have attempted to crack down on bullying and attempt to address abuse, such as hate speech. In addition, Facebook has recently implemented a suicide watch program, focused on people identified as potentially vulnerable or at risk.
More about Social media, Depression, Anxiety, Twitter, Facebook
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