Is there a link between social media and depression? Do Facebook and Instagram have a negative impact on your mental health? It’s complicated.
Sometimes, scrolling through Instagram just makes you feel bad. You try not to envy your friends, but they always seem to be traveling somewhere cool, eating something fancy, or looking cute in perfect just-rolled-out-of-bed hair.
On the other hand, there are times when you laugh at funny memes, catch up with old friends, and feel happy to belong to fun social media communities. Clearly, social media isn’t all bad.
Does social media cause depression? Is it bad for your mental health?
People are increasingly opinionated about the potential problems of social media. Things like cyberbullying, screen addiction, and being exposed to endless filtered images that make it impossible not to make comparisons between yourself and others often make the news.
In July, a big study came out in the uber-prestigious journal JAMA. It was titled “Association of Screen Time and Depression in Adolescence.” This big headline seemed to confirm what a lot of people have been saying—that screen time is horrible for young people.
The study followed over 3800 adolescents over four years as part of a drug and alcohol prevention program. Part of what the investigators measured was the teens’ amount of screen time, including time spent on social media, as well as their levels of depression symptoms. One of their main findings was that higher amounts of social media use were associated with higher levels of depression. That was true both when the researches compared between people and compared each person against their own mental health over time.
Case closed? Not so fast. Before we end the debate once and for all, let’s take a closer look at this and other studies. Let’s ask ourselves: What exactly is the relationship between social media use and depression? It turns out there are several caveats.