Social media has revolutionized the way people communicate by providing multiple platforms for exchanging ideas, promoting socially-relevant causes and enabling real-time updates. It has spawned a culture of information sharing which is concise, interactive and visually attractive. Not surprisingly, social media usage has increased substantially and people are using multiple platforms for various purposes. But the good part seems to end here.
A study undertaken by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health (CRMTH) has found that people using multiple social media accounts are likely to suffer from depressive symptoms. The findings of which appeared in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, was conducted in 2014 and surveyed 1,787 U.S. adults aged 19 to 32.
It was found that participants who used 7 to 11 social media platforms were thrice as likely to suffer with depression (3.1 times higher) and anxiety (3.3 times higher) as other users who used up to two platforms. Others factors influencing depressive symptoms, such as aggregate time spent online, ethnicity, gender, relationship status, family income and education, were also taken into account.
Social media and depression: A cause or a symptom?
The study does not conclusively prove if depression or anxiety leads to the use of multiple social media platforms, or if having multiple social media accounts definitely leads to such symptoms. Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D., director of CRMTH and assistant vice chancellor for health and society in University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences and lead author of this study, emphasizes that social media use may not be a direct reason for depression or anxiety but a symptom, and that the cause-and-effect relationship is yet to be established.
Primack puts forward the following reasoning to support the findings: “It may be that people who suffer from symptoms of depression or anxiety, or both, tend to subsequently use a broader range of social media outlets. For example, they may be searching out multiple avenues for a setting that feels comfortable and accepting. However, it could also be that trying to maintain a presence on multiple platforms may actually lead to depression and anxiety. More research will be needed to tease that apart.”
Impact of multiple social media accounts on mental health
During the survey, participants were questioned about the 11 most-frequented social media sites at the time: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn. Based on the responses, the research team derived analyses linking multi-platform social media use and mental health.
The researchers attribute depressive symptoms to the following:
- Constantly floating between various platforms requires multitasking, which has been linked to decline in cognitive abilities and deterioration in mental health.
- Over time, every platform assumes a set of usage protocols which can be complicated for users to abide. Using multiple platforms compounds this difficulty, which may lead to mood disorders.
- The potential of being in an embarrassing situation increases during multiple platform use since there are higher chances of social media gaffes.
More personalized research needed
According to César G. Escobar-Viera, M.D., Ph.D., postdoctoral research associate at University of Pittsburgh Health Policy Institute and at CRMTH as well as the co-author of this study, it is important to establish a correlation between patterns and experiences of social media users and the specific type of depression or anxiety faced by them. According to him, such an analysis will result in a personalized approach to designing and implementing public health initiatives.
Depression or anxiety, whether induced by high social media usage or any other reason, can lead to various complications. If you or someone you know is showing signs of depression or anxiety and is seeking rehab centers for depression, contact the Depression Treatment Helpline immediately. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-619-7729 or chat online with one of our representatives to learn about the best treatment centers for depression.