A new report conducted by psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania have determined that an excessive amount of time on “social media” sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are making millennials depressed.
“It was striking,” said Melissa Hunt, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who led the study. “What we found over the course of three weeks was that rates of depression and loneliness went down significantly for people who limited their (social media) use.”
The study, “No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression," is being published in December’s Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.
Researchers recruited 143 students for two different trials, one in the spring semester and one in the fall semester. Each subject was required to have a Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat account, plus an Apple iPhone. They collected data on the students for about a week to get a baseline reading of their social media usage, and also had them submit questionnaires that assessed their mental health according to seven different factors: social support, fear of missing out, loneliness, autonomy, and self-acceptance, anxiety, depression, and self-esteem.
“Here’s the bottom line,” Hunt explained to Science Daily. “Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness. These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”
The link between increasing social media usage and mental health issues have already been established in past studies. But, depression and loneliness have not, until now.
Hunt said lonely and depressed people use platforms like Facebook because they are seeking social connections. Social media as a whole is making millennials more lonely, and increasingly depressed.
The study did not cover why social media makes people depressed. Hunt does provide an example:
The first is “downward social comparison.” A person reviews their feed and finds countless posts of their friends enjoying wonderful experiences. The result: “You’re more likely to think your life sucks in comparison,” said Hunt.
Social media sites are a vital tool for many millennials in the modern economy. This means they cannot cut it out altogether, Hunt Said.
That is why the study focused on cutting back usage. While ten minutes might not seem like much, the study showed it certainly helped with depression.