If you, like me, prefer to spend your mornings scrolling through Facebook like it is the morning paper, checking out what you missed while you spent the previous night with a half-assembled IKEA chair, two microwave burritos, and a $3 bottle of Chardonnay, I have bad news. According to a recent study, daily social media use is associated with depression in teens, so it might be time to downgrade that particular ritual to a biweekly basis. (Of course, I could just be the only person who does this, but I'd rather not entertain that possibility.)
Researchers analyzed the social media usage and moods of 750 participants in the study, which was published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. According to i100, teens who devoted two or more hours to social media a day were more likely to exhibit signs of depression, "psychological distress," and even suicidal thoughts. Although this does not mean that social media is the cause of mental illness, researchers point out that it could be a warning sign for parents and authority figures. If a teen is spending excessive amounts of time on social media, it could be a red flag indicating that something more is going on.
This is far from the first time research has shown that social media has a dark side. Study after study links sites like Facebook and Twitter to feelings of depression, and this year, researchers at the University of Houston claimed they found the reason for the phenomenon: social comparison. Posting only things that make us look interesting creates a sort of "highlight reel" of our lives, as Forbes points out, which can exacerbate preexisting loneliness.
On the other hand, studies have also shown that this is largely dependent on how you use social media. People who use it to compare themselves to others are more likely to be depressed, but those who use it to keep up with each other and share important news appear to log off unscathed.
In the face of seemingly weekly headlines declaring that Facebook is ruining our lives, this is an important distinction to make. Is there a link between social media and symptoms of depression? All signs point to yes. However, mental health is rarely black-and-white. Rather than social media being the cause of depression, it seems far more likely that it aggravates it in people who are already prone in the first place.
So if you get online primarily to keep up with your friends, congratulations! You're a well-adjusted adult. What's that like? If you're mainly online as a way to see how all your frenemies' lives stack up against your own, though, it might be time to log off for a while. All your selfies will still be there when you get back.
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