I’m writing this blog post after a very, very long and stressful day in the office and out. I’ve been sick, so I haven’t been sleeping well. I have a presentation at 9 AM tomorrow morning to my Senior Vice President (that will eventually go to our new Chief Marketing Officer) and so I was the last man standing in the marketing department tonight. For these two reasons, I missed my beloved Tuesday night spin class and settled for a bowl of soup for dinner. With two essays due for my Saturday class and this blog post to compose, I naturally did what any Millennial does when they sit down to do homework: I went on social media. What did I see?
- A sorority sister who I haven’t spoken to since graduation is also sick, but her fiancé bought her flowers to make her feel better. #luckiestgirlalive
- My best friend’s cousin is en route to Vegas for a company trip. #bestcoworkersever
- A health magazine reminded me that I shouldn’t make any excuses for not working out. #beyourbest
- Someone I met at a random party years ago made a beautiful quinoa bowl with avocado and kale. #cleaneating
- Gronk joined Instagram (not complaining about this one…)
UGH. I felt even worse about my day…and that I actually had a handful of Cadbury Mini Eggs for dinner…
To escape the seemingly perfect lives of those I follow on social, I began to actually do work and brainstorm my post. And that when I stumbled on a very interesting (and relevant) new study from the University of Pittsburgh: it turns out there’s a link between heavy social media use and depression. Researchers surveyed about 1,800 men and women ages 19-32 about the time they spent on 11 prominent social media channels. These participants also completed depression testing. Now, this is not the first study to look at social media and its effect on our mood/ mood disorders. But previous studies have been limited in their sample size or limited to one channel. This is the first study to look broadly across channels and with a large audience.
Key findings of this study included:
- Participants went on social media sites 30 times a week and about 60 minutes a day
- 1/4 of the participants showed signs of depression
- Those who used social media the most were 2.7 times more likely to be depressed than those who used social the least
Researchers are careful to point out that the study shows correlation, not causation. They do not know if more social media leads to people being depressed or if depressed people tend to be on social media more. Right now, it’s still a chicken-or-the-egg situation that warrants more investigation.
I don’t have depression and fully recognize that Tuesday was just a bad day. But I can’t say that this study offers surprise findings; I’ve heard of “Facebook depression” before. I can only imagine what it must be like for someone with true depression to go on social media sites and see these amazing filtered lives we’ve all created. Try as we might, we cannot hide our human (read: flawed) moments and traits behind Valencia or just choose not to post that day when we are out in the real world. However, online, we can be funnier, better looking, more successful, more athletic, smarter. I’ve even recently seen a Facebook friend announce her divorce in the happiest, most adult way ever (maybe it really was that way, but…). The times I have seen people reveal the messy parts of their lives, I’ve been totally thrown off and wondered “Why would you put that on social?!” That’s considered oversharing. At the end of the day, our social pages are Disney stories without the villain.
With all of this said, I don’t think the answer is for all of us to share our complete selves – the good and the bad – on social. We wouldn’t do that if we were all in a room together; the same should be true of social. I do think there is something to be said for less image manipulation, but that’s another blog post entirely…(lookin’ at you, Kardashians).
With this study, I think the real opportunity is from a behavioral health care perspective. In the future, will doctors be screening us for our social media use to better understand why we might be depressed? If we are diagnosed with depression, will doctors and other behavioral health specialists recommend going on social less or quitting altogether as part of treatment? Will we see more apps come out that help us reduce our social use and take better care for our mental health? The possibilities could be endless.
But for now, maybe (maybe) I’ll try spending a little less time on social…except for Saturday when I’m <knock-on-wood> posting about a Syracuse win and how #blessed I was to go there.