Study: Cut­ting so­cial me­dia time can lessen de­pres­sion, lone­li­ness

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - HEALTH / WEATHER - BY CASSIE OWENS

If you were con­sid­er­ing go­ing on a so­cial me­dia diet, new re­search backs up the ben­e­fits.

Ac­cord­ing to a pa­per in the Jour­nal of So­cial and Clin­i­cal Psy­chol­ogy’s De­cem­ber is­sue, tight­en­ing Face­book, In­sta­gram, and Snapchat use can lower lone­li­ness and de­pres­sion.

Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia psy­chol­o­gist Melissa G. Hunt led the study, which sur­veyed 143 stu­dents at Penn. Re­searchers di­vided the un­der­grads into groups that lim­ited so­cial me­dia use and groups that con­tin­ued to use the plat­forms as they pleased. Par­tic­i­pants, who were pre­dom­i­nately fe­male, were of­fered aca­demic credit for their time.

The study did not ask stu­dents to ab­stain from so­cial me­dia. The re­searchers ex­plained this choice in the pa­per, not­ing, “It is un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect young peo­ple to forgo this in­for­ma­tion stream en­tirely.”

Rather, the stu­dents who were cut­ting their screen time kept to 10 min­utes on Face­book, In­sta­gram and Snapchat each day— no more than a half-hour on all plat­forms com­bined. The so­cial me­dia di­ets didn’t have much of an in­flu­ence on anx­i­ety or self-ac­cep­tance, but af­ter three weeks, stu­dents who lim­ited their time on the apps scored lower on the UCLA Lone­li­ness Scale. For stu­dents with de­pres­sion, symp­toms de­clined by the end of the trial.

A Cigna study re­leased this year found that 41 per­cent of peo­ple in the Philadel­phia area — and nearly half of Amer­i­cans — are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing lone­li­ness. That re­search found that the younger gen­er­a­tions were the loneli­est.

Fol­low­ing the Cigna find­ings, Brian A. Pri­mack, di­rec­tor of the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh’s Cen­ter for Re­search on Me­dia, Tech­nol­ogy, and Health, won­dered what the find­ings say about the qual­ity of our so­cial in­ter­ac­tions and how we chose to en­gage. Read­ing emo­jis, he said, might not be as nour­ish­ing as IRL smiles.

Hunt ex­pressed sim­i­lar con­cerns: “The ex­tent to which young peo­ple are us­ing so­cial me­dia can in­ter­fere with time spent on ac­tiv­i­ties that can more gen­uinely foster self­es­teem, like get­ting your work done, or true in­ti­macy, like hang­ing out with your friends in the real world.”

The trou­ble, she ex­plained, is that many so­cial me­dia users cu­rate what they post and leave the rough times (and rough self­ies) out. Peo­ple may share bad ex­pe­ri­ences in Red­dit com­mu­ni­ties, while Face­book, In­sta­gram, and Snapchat feeds might read more like only best mo­ments. In real in­ti­macy, she noted, the ups and downs are ex­pressed in the same space.


A woman uses the Face­book ap­pli­ca­tion on her smart­phone. A re­cent study sug­gests that tight­en­ing so­cial me­dia use can lower feel­ings of lone­li­ness and de­pres­sion.

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