Dr Jenna Hebert
Social Media and Mental Health
Social media can be a great way to stay in touch with friends, keep track of photos, and, let’s face it, procrastinate. But can social media use be bad for mental health? I have certainly experienced the sinking feeling in my stomach when I see friends spending time together without me. Sometimes others’ posts about getting a great new job or an exotic vacation can make me question if my life is “good enough,” even if I am happy overall. But still, being able to connect with my friends easily makes me happy, and posts from pages like IGB brighten my day. So which is it — is social media good or bad for our mental health?
A recent study* presented at the Association for Psychological Science in San Francisco suggests that the answer lies in how you use social media. Using data from questionnaires, the researchers found that “social comparisons” (i.e. comparing oneself with others based on their social media profiles) were associated with depression. In addition, people with depression tended to report excessive use of social media to the point that it interfered with work and personal life.
The researchers could not conclude if social media use in this way causes depression, a common limitation in these types of studies. But it can’t hurt to check in on how we spend time online. Are we spending our free time mindlessly scrolling and resenting the beaches and brunches? If so, it might be worth cutting back.
Social media can also be a great tool to find a support network while dealing with a mental illness. IGB is just one example of a platform for people to share and view encouraging stories about mental health journeys. Facebook and Instagram are wonderful tools, as long as we use them wisely!
*The study was described in an article on Live Science.