Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh’s Schools of the Health Sciences are uncovering some pretty unpleasant findings about social media use among young adults.
It’s making them depressed.
The researchers sampled 1,787 U.S. adults between the ages of 19 and 32 and found significant and linear associations between social media use and depression. Those who were “high users” of social media had 2.7 times the likelihood of depression compared to those who used these sites less frequently. However, people who are already depressed may tend to use social media more often. Possible reasons for the connection include:
- Believing that others lead happier and more successful lives based on highly idealized representations of peers. In other words, everyone is overjoyed on social media, which can lead people to believe that something is wrong with them or that they should be ashamed of themselves because they don’t feel the same.
- People might feel guilty or ashamed of themselves after spending too long on social media.
- “Internet addiction” is a proposed psychiatric condition that is believed to be closely related to depression.
- The more time spent on social media, the more likely you will be faced with cyberbullying or other similar harmful interactions.
It’s Making It Hard for Them to Sleep
Young adults who spend a lot of time on social media or who frequently check it are more likely to suffer from sleep disturbances than those who use it less. Those participants who regularly checked in on social media sites throughout the week were three times more likely to suffer from sleep disturbances. In contrast, those who spent the most time on social media had twice the risk of sleep disturbance. It seems that “obsessive checking” is more dangerous than the total time spent on the sites. It could be that people choose to stay up late to interact on social media, or they could be so stimulated from their interactions that they have a hard time drifting off, or the light from their devices could disrupt their circadian rhythms. It’s also possible that people who can’t sleep log on to social media sites in the middle of the night.
It’s Increasing the Likelihood of Their Having Eating and Body Image Issues
Participants who spent the most time on social media throughout the day had 2.2 times the risk of reporting eating and body image concerns. Those individuals who most frequently check social media throughout the week had 2.6 times the chance. If you’re going to post photos of yourself, you’re going to spend time taking or choosing one that makes you look like the best version of you, causing others to form unrealistic expectations for themselves. Also, people with eating and body image concerns seek each other out online.
Internet addiction disorder is like pretty much every other addiction under the sun in some ways:
- Overconsumption can ruin relationships, work, and other essential aspects of a healthy life. Addicts will continue their compulsive behavior even when their significant other threatens to leave them, their friends start to avoid them, or their work performance begins to slip.
- Internet addicts are obsessed with checking their social media pages and can think of little else when they are not able to check-in for some time, and they have withdrawal symptoms when they don’t have access to the internet.
Let’s Be Real Here
The best thing that we can do for ourselves is, to be honest about our lives on social media – sometimes, your weekends suck. Sometimes you don’t feel like celebrating a Holiday, and sometimes your hair looks like crap. Sometimes all of these things happen simultaneously. Really. Also, your children aren’t perfect angels, and your meals aren’t all photograph worthy. Ladies, you do not walk around with fish lips and winged eyeliner all of the time. Sometimes, you close your mouth. Whether you’re a man or a woman, you’ve been angry, sad, and scared at some point in your life. How do I know? Because you’re a human. Admit it.
At least set some guidelines for yourself. You won’t browse social media sites while driving or when you’re in the bathroom, for example. Maybe your first rule should be that you won’t post about how “blessed” you are while you’re in the middle of having sex. About 5% of people have checked Facebook while having sex. If that’s not a reason for divorce, I don’t know what is. In case you’re curious, 12% have answered a phone call, and 10% have responded to a text right in the middle of sex.
Some people have successfully weaned themselves from useless time spent on social media sites by only visiting the sites when they have a specific reason to do so…like to connect with people who they give a damn about, for example. It’s been proven that humans max out at a certain number of acquaintances and friends; we all (regardless of how many “friends’ we have on social media) share the capacity to have:
- 150 people in our social group (people that we would send a Christmas card)
- 50 friends (that we would invite to a party
- 15 close friends (that would listen to us talk about our problems)
- Five confidantes (that we would share a secret with)