Social Media & Loneliness
For this post, we've teamed up with Alice in Science Education, an educator who has a great blog , instagram page and twitter account sharing her thoughts on the latest research in education and science. She provided the ideas and thoughts for this post.
There is no question that social media has completely changed the way we live. Many of us interact with our friends online more than we do in person.
Kids, in particular, use a lot of social media. They spend hours on Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms that most adults haven’t even heard of.
But what is the effect of this on mental health? New research is beginning to show that social media does have significant effects on how we think and how we feel, and it isn’t always positive. Experimental evidence has shown that limiting social media use may be helpful in improving our mental health.
A psychology experiment on students showed that social media may ironically make us feel lonelier.
Students in an experiment were randomly selected to limit their social media use to 10 minutes per day per platform.
After four weeks, researchers found a significant difference between the two groups in how lonely they felt. They measured this with the UCLA loneliness scale, which evaluates how connected, or disconnected someone feels from others.
Social Media & Depression Experiment
Individuals who use less social media also have fewer depression symptoms. Limiting the amount of social media you use may help how depressed you may feel.
The same researchers looked at the number of depressive symptoms in students who had limited their social media use. Those who had limited social media showed significantly fewer depressive symptoms by week 4, despite having similar levels at the beginning of the study.
Depressive Symptoms vs. Major Depression
Social Media and Depression
This result was consistent with a research survey that found a correlation between depression and social media.
A survey of 1,787 young adults between ages 19 and 32 found that those who used the least social media, with 1 or fewer social media sessions per day, had the lowest likelihood of having multiple depression symptoms, while those who used social media the most had the highest likelihood of having multiple depression symptoms.
Limitations of Self-Reported Data
Keys to Health
This research provides experimental and survey evidence showing that social media use may be linked to mental health. Limiting social media use can potentially help improve mental health.
However, there are a few significant shortcomings to this research. Since much of this research was done on college students, the results may not necessarily apply to the general population. Most of us don't live on campuses surrounded by our friends.
If your alternative to facebook is seeing friends in person at the dining hall, then it makes sense that limiting social media use can improve loneliness.
However, if the alternative is Netflix, then limiting social media use may not necessarily improve loneliness