Scientists have been studying the impact of social networks on physical and mental health for several years, and the data obtained are sometimes very contradictory. For example, in 2017, they assessed how Facebook “likes” affect mental well-being. It turned out that the more active a user is online, the worse he assesses his mental well-being. Other researchers argue that social media is bad for sleep quality. Still others believe that social media can improve health by increasing social circle and strengthening social connections. At the same time, evidence is emerging that people with more Facebook friends have lower scores for “general health”
According to University of Arkansas professor Brian Primack, author of the new study, most of these papers have one weakness: they don’t answer the chicken and egg question. Which came first – social media craze or mental health problems? Maybe it’s depression that makes you want to flip through photos on Instagram for days on end, and not vice versa? Primak and his colleagues managed to answer this question.
In 2018, scientists surveyed over 1,000 Americans 18-30 years old about their health status and the amount of time they spent watching Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram and SnapChat. In selecting participants, the study authors considered the age, gender, race, education, income, and employment of the participants in order to obtain representative results for the majority of Americans.
Scientists compared the performance of young people who spend less than 120 minutes on social media and those who spend more than 300 minutes on social media and found that the latter were 2.8 more likely to develop depression within six months. According to the authors, this may be due to the fact that people, especially popular bloggers, often create a positive lifestyle in social networks. Young people, especially those going through difficult times, may have the illusion that everyone around them leads a much better and more interesting life.
“This data is especially important to consider in the era of COVID-19. Now that we have far fewer opportunities for real communication, people have begun to pay more attention to social media. There is certainly some value in this, but I encourage people to think about which opportunities online technologies are really useful for them, and which ones cause a feeling of emptiness, ”said Brian Primack.