Study: Social Media Causes Depression, Loneliness

There have been several studies in the past about the harmful effects of social media use, but new research claims to have found, for the first time ever, a causal connection between the amount of time spent on social platforms and increased depression and loneliness. 

The study from the University of Pennsylvania is published in the latest Journal of Science and Clinical Psychology.  It examined 143 college-age students (age 18-22) and measured their use of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.  It then compared those who used the platforms without limitation to those who only used each for 10 minutes per day.  The result was those who used social media less showed sharp decreases in levels of loneliness and depression.

Psychologist Melissa G. Hunt, who authored the study, says the results show the negative effects of what she calls "downward social comparison."  "Looking at your friends' glossy Instagram posts both makes you feel left out potentially of events and get-togethers, and it can make you feel worse about your own life," she tells KTRH.  "(Social media) certainly makes people feel more disconnected, ironically, and left out, and often like their own lives are not as fun or interesting or glamorous as other people's lives."

In addition to unhealthy comparisons, social media also tends to create relationships that are superficial, according to Hunt.  "It's a very, very one-sided narrative of people's lives," she says.  "And when you think about intimacy, true intimacy grows from sharing hard times with people."

As for the solution, Hunt realizes that quitting social media or getting rid of it altogether is not realistic. Instead, she recommends reducing use of social media apps and replacing that time with more genuine human contact and endeavors.  "Don't spend more than a half an hour a day (on social media)," says Hunt.  "And then put your phone down, and go do things and connect with people in the real world...that's the bottom line."

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