Social media has become a mainstay in our lives. Sites like Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook have changed the way we communicate with others. Eight in ten Americans who are online use Facebook, the most popular social media platform with over a billion and a half users—and growing.1
The average social media user spends nearly two hours on their chosen platforms each day. That number is expected to increase as these sites continue to develop. The large amount of time we spend on social media has led to more feelings of anxiety and depression, according to an article published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.2 It has also reduced the amount of time we spend interacting with family and our wider social circle.
Research into social media and how it impacts our lives and our mental health is still fairly new. But a number of studies have found an increase in mental health problems due to heavy social media use, especially among adolescents and young adults.
But that’s not to say social media is bad. In fact, many studies have identified a range of benefits to using networking sites. These include reduced feelings of isolation, improved self-esteem and a higher number of positive relationships. It all boils down to how—and how much—you use social media.
This eBook examines the relationship between social media and depression. We’ll look into the facts and myths behind social media addiction. Finally, we’ll offer tips for using social media in ways that won’t harm your mental health or reduce your quality of life.
The Demographics of Social Media
People of all ages and from all walks of life use social media these days. When Pew Research Center started tracking social media use in 2005, only five percent of American adults used social media. By 2011, that number had risen to 50 percent, and today 69 percent of Americans over the age of 18 use at least one social media site.
Social media usage of at least one site, by age group:
Social media usage of American adults, by site:
The Relationship Between Social Media and Depression
A recent study by the University of Pittsburgh found that the most active users of social media had three times the incidence of depression of those who use it the least.3 But the study’s researchers stress that this doesn’t necessarily mean that social media causes depression. Rather, it may be that people who are already depressed are turning to social networking to fill a void or to reduce feelings of isolation and sadness.
However, a substantial body of research points to a number of factors that could explain the correlation between social media use and depression. These include overuse, negative experiences, engaging in unhealthy online communities and…
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