Posted on Dec 06, 2018, 2 a.m.
Social media platforms have become part of everyday life over the past few decades. Despite their popularity controversy surrounds their impact on mental health and wellbeing. University of Amsterdam scientists have found a correlation between passive use of these platforms and depression symptoms such as fatigue and loneliness, as published in the Journal Of Experimental Psychology: General.
Many people seem to be attached to their mobile devices, aimlessly scrolling through feeds, reading updates, or looking at pictures whenever there is a moment to spare. This behaviour is called passive social media use and is often used to relieve boredom and can consume large portions of time. It may seem to be innocent, but it is not without much controversy, and research shows it can be addicting, decrease affective wellbeing, sense of belonging, and general life satisfaction.
125 students were recruited by an international team of scientists to measure their wellbeing and passive social media use 7 times daily for 14 days in order to investigate the link between social media use and symptoms of depression. An app on their mobile devices prompted participants at fixed times to complete a 12 item depression questionnaire; responses were analysed focussing on 3 timeframes: short term within the same 2 hours; medium term prediction from one prompt to next; and longer term across the entire 14 days.
According to the scientists results showed engaging inpassive social media use did not predict depression symptoms, but it did reveal a relationship between negative well being and increased social media use: Feelings of loneliness and fatigue at a given prompt predicted passive social media use at the next prompt indicating certain depression symptoms might lead to scrolling through media feeds. PSMU at a given prompt was found to co-occur with loss of interest, concentration problems, loneliness, and fatigue at the same prompt, however it is not know whether passive social media use causes these symptoms or vice versa and is a topic for future research.
The team suggests this study shows the link between these platforms and psychological well being is more complicated than simply saying social media makes people depressed, rather specific social media behaviour appears to be associated with depression symptoms; more research is required to find out how use of these platforms and mental health influence each other.
Next the team would like investigate whether their findings can be replicated in a clinical setting as previous research suggests that social media platforms adverse effects could be stronger in depressed individuals than in non-depressed individuals, clinical sampling may show a more pronounced link between passive social media use and depression symptoms.
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George Aalbers et al. Social media and depression symptoms: A network perspective., Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (2018). DOI: 10.1037/xge0000528