Researchers with the University of Pennsylvania have found a casual link between social media use, depression, and loneliness. The study looked at Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, finding that the use of these apps resulted in a decrease in one’s sense of wellbeing. This is said to be the first study that has found a casual link between social media use and depression/loneliness.
The research comes from UPenn psychologist Melissa G. Hunt and a research team. The study involved an experiment that monitored the social media usage of 143 volunteers who first took a mood survey and shared screenshots of their iPhone battery screens.
Unlike a control group, which was tasked with performing their usual social media activities, the experimental group was limited to using the three aforementioned social media sites to 10 minutes per day. The volunteers also shared more screenshots of their iPhone battery screens.
After three weeks, the researchers evaluated the participants across seven measures, among them being loneliness, depression, anxiety, and FOMO. The team found that participants with reduced social media use had a decrease in feelings of loneliness and depression.
“These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study,” according to Hunt. This isn’t the first study to look at the potential connection between social media use and negative moods like depression.
Past research from a variety of experts have found that social media may increase feelings of depression and loneliness due to the amount of social comparison between users. Social media posts are often tailored to present positive, fun, or interesting activities; frequently viewing these snippets of others’ lives may lead the viewer to believe they’re missing out on something.