Study claims social media 'increases depression and loneliness'

Depression? Loneliness? Limit your social media use, study says

Psychologists from the University of Pennsylvania in the United States of America have come to the conclusion that the prolonged use of social networks can lead to depression.

"Our study can not speak directly to why this happens", she stressed.

All of the participants were UPenn undergraduates (108 women and 35 men) enrolled in psychology courses. A more diverse population, for instance, or including more social media platforms. The study notes that while researchers were able to monitor the use of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat on mobile phones of the students, they could still use the platforms on their desktop (except for Snapchat) or on phones of their friends, which could not be monitored.

Participants were then randomly assigned into one of two experimental conditions. After three weeks, they were tested again for outcomes such as fear of missing out, anxiety, depression and loneliness.

That said, it's a straightforward causal link between limiting social media use and improving some aspects of emotional and social health.

Before the experiment, participants took part in the survey, during which researchers assessed their feelings of loneliness, anxiety, symptoms of depression, as well as their place in society from the point of view of communication with other people.

Could you limit your social network use to just 10 minutes a day?

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Also, neither of the groups showed improvements in self-esteem, social support, or autonomy and self-acceptance.

While not advocating for a total divorce from all social media, the team acknowledged that identifying the flawless sweet spot for ideal usage habits remains elusive.

According to one of the researchers, previous studies were hindered by unclear targets and faulty research procedures, which lead to a clash of results.

Dr. Brian Primack is director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health at the University of Pittsburgh.

Recent problems, like the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the spread of fake news in Myanmar contributing to genocide and increasing problems across Facebook-owned WhatsApp have eclipsed the more personal problems that have afflicted social media users because of practices created to get people hooked on social networks.

Because this particular work only looked at Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, it's not clear whether it applies broadly to other social-media platforms. "So, future research might expand findings like this by exploring different contexts of social media use".

The University of Pennsylvania study didn't 100 percent conclude why social media leads to depression.

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