Social media is useful for people to communicate, access information, and receive social support. However, research has shown that it can negatively affect mental health, linking it to depression, anxiety, and sleep concerns.
Recent studies have explored the link between poor mental health and social media use, focusing on its effects on sleep, anxiety, and loneliness.
This article explores the connection between social media and depression. It also discusses the benefits of social media and explains how to use it safely.
Depression is a mood disorder that leads to low mood and symptoms that affect various aspects of an individual’s daily life, such as their sleep, appetite, and employment. People may sometimes refer to depression as major depressive disorder or clinical depression.
The symptoms of depression
- feeling hopeless or pessimistic
- feeling irritable, frustrated, or restless
- feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- reduced interest and enjoyment in hobbies and activities
- impaired concentration, memory, or decision-making
- low energy or fatigue
- appetite or weight changes
- sleep issues
- thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
Some people may also experience painful physical symptoms, such as aches, cramps, and digestive concerns, that have no clear cause and do not respond to treatment. However, this is not among the diagnostic criteria for the condition.
Doctors will only diagnose depression if the symptoms of depression have been present almost every day for most of the day for at least 2 weeks. A person may experience a few or many symptoms that vary in severity, frequency, and duration.
Recent research points to the connection between social media use and well-being, particularly when the use is excessive. For some people, popular social media platforms such as Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram have an association with certain mental health conditions, including depression.
However, more in-depth research is required, as many studies have limitations. These include a lack of causality, self-reported data, and small sample sizes.
Social media use may contribute to sleep issues, including insomnia, reduced sleep quality, and shortened sleep duration.
Although social media may increase virtual connectivity among individuals, it is also associated with loneliness because increased use may result in fewer in-person interactions.
A 2018 study suggests that limiting social media use for 3 weeks positively influences well-being. The participants who restricted Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat use to 10 minutes daily for each platform experienced significantly reduced loneliness and depression compared with those who continued their typical use of social media.
However, anxiety and fear of missing out (FOMO) were significantly lower in both groups, suggesting that even a better awareness of social media use is beneficial.
A 2022 study found that people who took a 1-week social media break noted significant improvements in depression, anxiety, and well-being. More long-term research is necessary to build on these findings.
Social media platforms provide plenty of benefits, allowing people to communicate, find information, and share content.
They also offer community engagement, social connection, and support. Social media users have the chance to express themselves and interact with a wide variety of people, which may lead to fulfilling relationships.
Social media use can negatively affect overall well-being and mental health, especially if a person uses it excessively and is overdependent on online communication and support.
- social pressure and comparison
- addictive patterns
- fewer in-person interactions
- the contagion effect of suicide, in which people viewing certain behaviors on social media may start to see them as a viable option
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
Several practices may help a person use media more safely:
- Maintaining privacy: People should avoid sharing personal information, making their location known, and adding strangers as contacts. They can adjust the privacy settings to suit their requirements.
- Setting limits: A timer or app can help people monitor their use. They can then remove time-consuming apps from their devices and use an app or browser extension to block distracting websites.
- Restricting use: A person can decide to complete all of their important tasks before using social media. They can also avoid using it at certain times of the day.
- Taking a break: A social media break involves completely abstaining from social media use for a set time.
A person should consult a doctor if they experience low mood and symptoms of depression for more than
It is important to speak with a doctor as early as possible, as treatment is generally more effective the earlier it begins.
Usually, a depression treatment plan includes medications and psychotherapy. Certain lifestyle adjustments, such as exercising more, engaging in in-person social activities, and eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet, can also contribute to better mental health.
Anyone seeking support for depression can contact:
- Samaritans: This nonprofit organization supports people who feel depressed and lonely or have thoughts of suicide. Call or text 877-870-4673 (HOPE).
- Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA): This international nonprofit association helps prevent and treat mental health conditions such as depression. The organization offers free in-person support groups in the United States and Canada, as well as virtual support groups.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): This organization provides support groups and resources for mental health conditions.
Social media allows individuals to connect and interact with various people, and its use is prevalent worldwide. Although it offers many advantages, people should consider how social media use affects their physical and mental health.
Some social media use is associated with depression, which causes symptoms that affect how a person thinks, feels, and navigates their daily routine. It is often possible to alleviate the harmful effects of social media by reducing or limiting its daily use, taking a break from it, or quitting it altogether.