Mood and Media: Does Social Media Cause Depression?


When was the last time you used social media?  When you woke up this morning? Waiting in line at the coffee shop? Right now?  The point is social media is a big part of our day-to-day routine.  Updates on events, relationships and even meals you’ve eaten- in today’s society, it’s not uncommon to share what you’re up to.  But this constant sharing (and sometimes over sharing) has been linked to an increase in the symptoms of depression and overall lower mood, making us reconsider our scrolling habits.

A recent example of social media gone wrong is the story of Essena O’Neill, an Instagram star and model.  Essena, had quit Instagram, expressing that her picture perfect life was actually not as happy as it seemed.  She admits to obsessing over her appearance and social status while being unhappy.  She explains how she would spend hours trying to capture the right picture and took it to great lengths including skipping meals to stay thin.  Companies offered her money in exchange for promoting their products on her Instagram. She goes on to explain, “I was surrounded by all this wealth and all this fame and all this power and yet they were all miserable, and I had never been more miserable,” (Murray, 2015).

It’s clear that social media has increased our need for social approval, especially among younger generations.  Factors such as comments and number of likes influence a persons’ self esteem causing many people to base their opinions of themselves off of unrealistic sources.  While it’s more likely for people to post the positive parts of their life on social media, it often fails to provide others with a genuine view, distorting our sense of reality.  This in turn, can decrease your mood when you log on to social media and it seems like everyone else is happier and enjoying life more.

Another factor in social media and its impact on your mood is how you utilize it.  A study linking Facebook and depression found that using social media for its intended purpose of staying in touch with friends and family doesn’t actually have an impact on mood.  However, when connecting with friends turns into casual browsing and creeping on strangers or perhaps ex friends and partners, experiencing a depressed mood is much more likely to follow.  Especially when those interactions don’t involve engaging with the other person through comments, messaging, or likes (Chappellet-Lanier, 2015).  Another study found that Facebook might cause an increase in jealousy and depression, while taking into account that people often feel poorly about themselves after using social media when they could be doing something more productive (Wise, 2013).

So the bottom line is social media can still be a fun way to connect with others- as long as you’re conscious about how you’re using it.  When posting becomes more about seeking self-approval and scrolling through your newsfeed gets you feeling down, you might want to reconsider how you view life behind the screen.

References:

Chappellet-Lanier, T. (2015, February 4). Does Facebook cause depression? Depends on how you use it. Retrieved November 15, 2015, from http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/02/04/383775091/does-facebook-cause-depression-depends-on-how-you-use-it

Murray, R. (2015, November 4). Instagram star quits social media, reveals her ‘dream life’ was all a sham. Retrieved November 15, 2015, from http://www.today.com/news/instagram-star-quits-social-media-reveals-her-dream-life-was-t53721

Wise, J. A. (2013, December 5). Does social media make us happy or unhappy? Retrieved November 15, 2015, from http://www.personal.psu.edu/afr3/blogs/siowfa13/2013/12/does-social-media-make-us-happy-or-unhappy.html

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