Does Using Social Media Cause Depression

Does Using Social Media Cause Depression?

Writen By: Sana Ihsan
Reviewed By: Huma Khan
Publish Date: January 24, 2024

Ever thought about how scrolling through social media affects your mood? It’s a real thing. Does using social media cause depression without you even realizing it? We’re exploring if all that scrolling contributes to feeling down.

Now, let’s talk about how social media can mess with our thoughts and make us feel sad. You know when you’re scrolling through feeds and it seems like everyone else has it better? That’s the comparison game. And here’s the thing: You want to study or work, but you can’t stop scrolling. It’s like a craving. This constant need to stay connected, combined with comparing yourself to others, can actually bring you down. Have you ever felt that way?

In this blog, we’re chatting about social media and depression—the good, the not-so-good, and how it affects us. We’ll explore why scrolling through endless feeds might mess with our mood. If you’ve ever wondered why social media leaves you feeling off or if it’s affecting your productivity, you’re in the right place. Stick around; by the end, you’ll have some tips to make social media work for you without messing with your mental vibe. So, are you still wondering: Does using social media cause depression? Let’s find out together.

The Role Of Social Media In Our Lives

According to a 2022 global report, there are over 46.2 billion users of social media all over the world. This represents 93.3% of the online population globally, 58.8% of the general world population, and 74.8% of the global adult population. Social media has become a big deal in our lives and plays a big role in various aspects of our lives. However, social media use is linked to depression in adults. You all must be here to find the answer to our main question, “Does using social media cause depression? But first, let’s understand the overall role of social media in our lives.

1. Connecting People

One of the cool things about social media is that it helps you find and talk to people you might have lost touch with, like old friends or family members. It’s like having a digital address book that keeps everyone close.

2. Shaping Online Communities

It’s not just about friends and family; social media also brings people together based on things they like or enjoy. So, if you’re into something specific, chances are there’s a virtual group where people share that interest, creating a sort of online neighborhood.

3. Lifelong Learning Hub

Social media isn’t just for connecting; it’s also a place to learn new things. Whether it’s educational videos, DIY tutorials, or insightful discussions, social media is like a virtual classroom where knowledge is just a click away.

4. Economic Opportunities

Beyond personal and professional connections, social media opens doors to economic opportunities. It’s a space where entrepreneurs can showcase their skills, businesses can reach wider audiences, and job seekers can find new opportunities, making it a dynamic hub for economic growth.

5. Personalized Entertainment Hub

Social media is like your personalized entertainment station. From funny cat videos to your favorite creator’s latest updates, it’s a one-stop shop for entertainment catered specifically to your preferences.

6. Support System for Challenges

When life gets tough, social media can be a support system. It’s a space where people share their experiences, offer advice, and lend a virtual hand during challenging times, turning it into a digital support network.

7. Instant Connection

Social media breaks down distance barriers. You can chat with someone on the other side of the world almost instantly. It’s like having the power to connect with anyone, anywhere.

8. News and Trends

Staying informed is easy with social media. It’s like a constant stream of news and trends, keeping you in the loop about what’s happening globally and what’s cool or popular right now.

9. Influence and Expression

Expressing yourself is a big part of social media. It gives you a place to share your thoughts, be creative, and show the world what makes you unique. It’s all about letting your digital personality shine.

10. Social Media is driving change

Social media isn’t just for personal stuff; it can also help make big changes in our society. It acts like a spark that ignites social movements and important changes. Here’s how: it gives a place for people to speak up, makes important issues more visible, and helps communities come together to work towards a common goal. Social media is a powerful tool that can make our world better by bringing attention to what really matters.

Does Using Social Media Cause Depression

The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health 

According to a 2023 study, using social media and smartphones can affect how teenagers feel. While it can help with connection and self-esteem, it also comes with risks like cyberbullying and sleep loss, which are linked to mental health issues.

Another 2023 study found that using social media is linked to feeling depressed among teenagers, emphasizing the importance of understanding and addressing this issue.

If you are wondering, “ How does Social Media play a role in Depression”? Then, keep reading. Social media and mental health are connected, and researchers are exploring how they influence each other. The excessive use of social media can impact our mental health in the following ways:

1. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

Does this thought ever cross your mind about How Social Media Affects Your Mental health?  Using social media is often considered a fun activity, but continuous reels, posts, and pictures on social media may induce FOMO, making us feel like we’re missing out on exciting events or experiences, potentially causing anxiety and discontent.

2. Cyberbullying Impact

The online space isn’t always positive. Social Media and depression often go hand in hand. Cyberbullying on social media can have severe consequences for mental health, leading to feelings of isolation and distress.

3. Addiction and Distraction

Social media use and depression are often interlinked because the addictive nature of social media, coupled with constant notifications, can disrupt our focus, leading to decreased productivity and heightened stress levels.

In 2019, a study said that using social media a lot might make young people feel sad or worried, but more research is needed to understand that.

4. Body Image Issues

Some people might wonder, how can social media cause depression? It is considered the main source of happiness and entertainment nowadays but it has a very dark side as well. Exposure to idealized body images on social media may contribute to body dissatisfaction and, in some cases, body dysmorphic tendencies, impacting mental well-being.

5. Social Isolation 

While connected virtually, excessive social media use might contribute to feelings of loneliness as face-to-face interactions are reduced, affecting mental health. 

6. Sleep Disruptions

Late-night scrolling through social media can interfere with sleep patterns, leading to insufficient rest, which is linked to mood disturbances and heightened stress levels.

7. Pressure to Show Off

Feeling like we have to show off our lives on social media can create stress as we try to make everything look perfect, which isn’t always real.

8. Negative Self-Image

The emphasis on appearance and achievements online may lead individuals to develop a negative self-image, further intensifying feelings of sadness or hopelessness.

9. Overwhelming Newsfeed

Constant exposure to negative news and distressing content on social media can contribute to a heightened state of anxiety and depression.

10. Dopamine Dependency

Getting likes and comments on social media can make us feel good instantly. It’s like a quick reward that our brain loves. But if this doesn’t happen or something goes wrong, it might make us sad. It’s like a circle; when we don’t get these likes, it can sometimes make us feel down.

According to a 2015 study, social media brings information and connections, but it also has downsides, causing superficial relationships, addiction, and enabling criminal activities.

Does Using Social Media Cause Depression? Exploring the Connection

Does Using Social Media Cause Depression

Now, let’s move forward and answer the question on everyone’s mind: “Does using social media cause depression?” The answer, in simple terms, is yes. Using social media can indeed play a role in contributing to feelings of depression. We’re about to explore this topic in the light of research studies, digging into how our online activities might be linked to those moments when we don’t feel our best. The following research studies confirm our answer to the primary question, “Does using social media cause depression?” and provide a detailed explanation of the connection between social media and depression.

  • Back in 2017, a study found a direct correlation between social media use and depressive symptoms in young people.
  • Another 2020 study says that excessive social media use and related behaviors, like posting or spending too much time, may contribute to feelings of anxiety or depression in young people.
  • Again, in 2020, a study looked at  how using social media affects mental health. It was discovered that social media use can affect anxiety and depression in both positive and negative ways. 
  • In 2021, yet another study raised the possibility that social media use could contribute to depression in certain individuals by exposing them to negative content and harmful social comparisons.
  • In the same year, another study found that excessive use of social media is moderately but significantly linked to higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress among adolescents and young adults.
  • Regardless of personality traits, an additional 2022 study shows that increased use of social media is strongly linked to the onset of depression.
  • The analysis of this 2022 study found that during the COVID-19 quarantine, spending more time on social media platforms was linked to a higher risk of developing anxiety and depressive symptoms, also known as post-COVID depression symptoms.

It’s not that social media directly causes depression, but it can add complexity to our feelings. When we see others sharing only the good stuff, it might make us feel like our own lives aren’t as good, leading to feelings of depression. Plus, always seeing others having fun might make us worry that we’re missing out on cool things.

Also, encountering negativity online or spending too much time scrolling can hurt our feelings and stress us out. While some studies suggest a connection between social media and depression, it’s essential to understand that social media alone doesn’t cause depression.

In 2018, a study suggested that spending more time on passive social media use is associated with certain depression symptoms, but it’s unclear if it directly causes them.

A 2019 review found mixed evidence regarding the link between social media use and symptoms of depression in college students, emphasizing the need for more consistent studies.

Even in 2021, a study suggested that the connection between social media use and feeling depressed isn’t entirely clear, indicating that other factors could be at play.

So, while social media can influence our mood, it’s essential to recognize that it’s just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to mental health. 

How Does Social Media Lead to Depression?

Now you know the answer to the question in your mind, which is ”Does Social media cause Depression”? So let us now talk about the contributing factors related to social media that cause depression. A 2019 study reveals that increased social media use, especially beyond 3 hours daily, is associated with higher depressive symptoms in adolescents, particularly impacting girls, with potential contributing factors including online harassment, poor sleep, low self-esteem, and body image issues.

The following are the major causes of depression due to excessive use of social media:

  1. Social Comparison

Regularly measuring our lives against others achievements and experiences online can lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

  1. Filtered Reality

Sharing only positive aspects on social media creates an illusion of a perfect life, creating unrealistic expectations and dissatisfaction with our own realities.

  1. Online Harassment 

Facing negativity, hate comments, or cyberbullying on social media platforms can have a profound impact on mental health, contributing to stress and sadness.

  1. Pressure to Fit In

The desire to fit into online trends or meet societal standards presented on social media may create internal pressure, potentially causing feelings of failure or not measuring up.

  1. Digital Fatigue 

Spending excessive time online, and constantly scrolling through feeds can lead to information overload, distract from real-life activities, and contribute to feelings of emptiness and tiredness due to depression. 

  1. Feelings Of Isolation 

Despite the virtual connections, social media can lead to a sense of isolation, as face-to-face interactions may decrease, affecting our overall emotional well-being.

  1. Lack of Authenticity

Specifically designed content can create a sense of disconnection, as genuine, unfiltered experiences may be overshadowed. This lack of authenticity can contribute to a feeling of isolation and hopelessness. 

  1. Influence of Viral Trends

The pressure to practice viral trends or challenges on social media may create a sense of inadequacy if one doesn’t participate, contributing to feelings of isolation.

  1. Privacy Concerns

Worries about privacy and the constant surveillance on social media platforms can lead to stress and anxiety, affecting mental health.

  1. Personal Achievements Pressure

Witnessing others achievements online may create a sense of pressure to accomplish similar milestones, leading to stress and feelings of inadequacy.

A 2023 study says changes in social media behavior among adolescents, including posting, liking, and commenting, do not predict future symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Signs of Social Media-Induced Depression

You are suffering from social media depression if you are:

  • Constantly feeling unhappy or sad after using social media.
  • Comparing one’s own life negatively to others showcased online.
  • Experiencing anxiety or pressure related to the number of likes, comments, or followers.
  • Withdrawing from real-life activities or face-to-face interactions due to excessive social media use.
  • Persistent feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem triggered by online content.
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying awake late while scrolling.
  • Increased sensitivity to online criticism or negative comments.
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities that were once enjoyable.
  • Frequent mood swings are influenced by social media interactions.
  • Spending an excessive amount of time on social media as a way to cope with negative emotions.

How to Minimize Negative Social Media Use? 

  1. Set Time Limits: Allocate specific time slots for social media use to prevent excessive and unproductive scrolling.
  2. Mindful Consumption: Be aware of your emotional responses to social media content. If a particular type of content consistently makes you feel negative, consider limiting exposure.
  3. Diversify Your Feed: Follow accounts that promote positivity, inspiration, and diverse perspectives to create a more uplifting social media environment.
  4. Real-Life Connections: Balance online interactions with face-to-face connections. Strengthening real-life relationships can contribute to a more fulfilling social experience.
  5. Turn-Off Notifications: Minimize interruptions by turning off non-essential notifications. This can help reduce the pressure to respond instantly and promote a healthier relationship with social media.
  6. Unplug Before Bed: Establish a “digital detox” routine before bedtime to improve sleep quality and overall well-being.
  7. Privacy Settings Review: Regularly review and update your privacy settings to control the information you share and enhance your sense of online security.
  8. Limit Social Comparison: Practice gratitude and focus on your own achievements rather than constantly comparing yourself to others on social media.
  9. Create Offline Moments: Designate specific times or activities where you intentionally disconnect from social media to engage fully in offline experiences.
  10. Be Selective with Platforms: Choose social media platforms that align with your interests and well-being goals, and consider taking breaks from platforms that have a negative impact.

Coping Tips And Treatment of Social Media-Related Depression

The following are some of the coping tips and treatment options for social media depression.

Therapy and Counseling

Engage in therapy sessions, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), to explore and address underlying thoughts and behaviors contributing to depression.

Medication Management

In some cases, healthcare professionals may recommend medication to alleviate depressive symptoms. Consultation with a psychiatrist is essential for a proper evaluation and prescription.

Support Groups

Join support groups or online communities focused on mental health, providing a platform to share experiences and coping strategies with others facing similar challenges.

Mind-Body Techniques

Explore mind-body practices like yoga or tai chi, which can complement traditional therapeutic approaches and contribute to overall well-being.

Lifestyle Changes

Implement positive lifestyle changes, including regular exercise, incorporating calming essential oil blends recipes for anxiety and panic attacks, healthy eating, and sufficient sleep, to support overall mental health.

Digital Detox Programs

Participate in structured digital detox programs that guide individuals through intentional periods of reduced or no social media use.

Remember, treatment approaches can vary based on individual circumstances, and it’s essential to consult with healthcare professionals for personalized recommendations and support.

What can social media platforms do to promote mental well-being?

Does Using Social Media Cause Depression

Here are some ways social media platforms can promote mental well-being:

1. Take Break Reminders: Social media can remind users to take breaks and set limits on their usage to avoid burnout.

2. Safe Content Policies: Platforms should have clear rules to remove harmful content like cyberbullying and hate speech, which can negatively affect mental health.

3. Mental Health Info: Provide easy-to-access resources about maintaining mental health and recognizing signs of distress.

4. Anonymous Support Groups: Create safe spaces where users can talk openly about mental health challenges without fear of judgment.

5. Customized Filters: Let users control what they see by allowing them to personalize content filters, avoiding triggering or harmful material.

6. Positive Content Promotion: Algorithms can highlight uplifting content to create a more positive online atmosphere.

7. Privacy Protections: Strengthen measures to protect users’ privacy and safety from online harassment.

8. Crisis Support: Offer direct access to helplines or crisis intervention services for those in immediate need.

9. Digital Well-Being Reports: Give users insights into their online habits and suggest ways to achieve a healthier balance.

Additionally, platforms can collaborate with mental health organizations to spread awareness and reduce stigma. They can also use safety alerts to reach out to users displaying signs of distress and guide them to support resources.

By implementing these features, social media platforms can foster a more supportive and mentally healthy online community. It’s a joint effort involving technology, community guidelines, and partnerships with mental health professionals.

Therapy-Providing Organizations

Here are some of the online platforms that provide therapy and support that can help you understand social media and depression or social media and mental health and treat your depressive symptoms with therapy.

The American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association provides resources and support for patients and their families seeking mental health information and assistance.

Asian Mental Health Project

The Asian Mental Health Project promotes mental health awareness and support within the Asian community through resources, education, and advocacy.

HelpGuide

HelpGuide is an organization that provides helpful information and resources to support mental health and well-being.

MentalHealth.gov

SAMHSA is an organization focused on improving mental health services and promoting recovery from mental illnesses and substance use disorders in the United States.

National Alliance on Mental Illness( NAMI) 

NAMI is an organization dedicated to providing support, education, and advocacy for individuals and families affected by mental health conditions.

Self-Help Books

The following self-help books can help you better understand the link between social media and depression.

Social Media Psychology by Connor Whitely

This book explores the psychological impact of social media on individuals and society.

Logged In and Stressed Out by Paula Durlofsky

This book delves into the challenges and stress associated with being constantly logged in on social media platforms.

Social Media and Mental Health by Michael Arntfield 

This book investigates the relationship between social media usage and its effects on mental well-being.

Conclusion

In wrapping up our discussion on “Does using social media cause Depression?” and exploring the link between social media use and mental health, it’s clear that our online interactions can indeed impact how we feel. Let us be aware of how our use of social media affects our well-being as we make our way through the digital world. As we finish our chat about social media and how it affects how we feel, we’d love for you to share what you’ve learned with your friends and family. Maybe someone you know could find this information helpful! Feel free to talk about your thoughts in the comments below; we’re curious to know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The following are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding our topic, “Does using social media cause depression?” 

1. How is social media affecting my mental health?

Social media can affect your mental health in various ways. One common impact is the comparison game. When you see others achieving or doing exciting things, it might make you feel like you’re missing out or not doing enough. For example, scrolling through posts of people on luxurious vacations or achieving career milestones can sometimes create a sense of worthlessness. 

2. What are the effects of social media addiction?

Being addicted to social media might make you less productive and mess with your sleep. It’s essential to take breaks, find other things to do, and seek support if needed to break the addiction cycle.

A study from 2021 shows that being addicted to social media is connected to feeling depressed. It’s important to use social media carefully to avoid these negative feelings.

3. Does quitting social media make you depressed?

Quitting social media might feel strange at first, but it doesn’t automatically make you depressed. It’s about finding a balance and doing things offline that bring you joy and connection.

4. Does social media cause low self-esteem?

Yes, sometimes social media can make you feel not so great about yourself when you compare yourself to others. As we know that social media use is linked to depression in adults.But remember, focusing on your own positives and creating a supportive online space can help boost your self-esteem.

5. What are the advantages of using Social Media?

In 2018, a study explores the diverse impacts of social media on society, encompassing positive aspects, like professional networking and negative elements such as cyberbullying. Some advantages of social media use are as follows:

  • Makes it easy to talk to people, even if they live far away.
  • Shows us interesting things and lets us learn from others.
  • Helps businesses and creative people share their work with a large audience.
  • Gives a space to express our feelings and get encouragement.
  • Let us share our hobbies and talents with others.
  • Connects us with people who like the same things we do.
  • Allows us to find helpful information and learn new skills.
  • Makes it simple to plan events or parties with friends.
  • Shows us funny and entertaining content that brightens our day.
  • Enables us to discover new music, movies, and books recommended by others.

6. What are the Negative Effects Of Social Media Use?

According to a 2020 study, using a lot of phones and social media might make some young people feel sad, but it’s not clear-cut. Some find it can lead to feeling down, while others think it could provide support for those with depression. More research is needed for a clearer understanding. 

Some of the negative effects of social media use are that it:

  • Can make us feel sad or left out when we see others doing exciting things.
  • Takes up a lot of our time, making it hard to focus on important tasks.
  • Sometimes people say mean things online, making us feel hurt or alone.
  • Encourages us to compare our looks and lives to others, making us feel not good enough.
  • May contribute to a sense of loneliness, even though we’re connected online.
  • Disrupts our sleep if we spend too much time on social media, affecting our mood.
  • Creates pressure to show off a perfect life, leading to stress and anxiety.
  • Can be overwhelming with constant notifications, making us feel pressured to respond quickly.
  • Encourages seeking approval through likes and popularity, affecting our self-esteem.
  • Sometimes leads to misunderstandings and conflicts when communicating online, causing stress and tension in relationships.