Does Social Media Use Contribute to Depression?

Does Social Media Use Contribute to Depression?
Social media is a relatively new concept in a modern world. It combines
technology and social tendencies to enhance interaction through Internet-based
gadgets and applications (Luxton, June, & Fairall, 2012). Through social media
platforms, users can create and exchange their own content irrespective of time and
distance. Social media consist of several popular platforms, such as Facebook,
YouTube, blogging sites, MySpace, and Twitter, among others. These modes of
socialization have transformed interaction through their instant chatting, messaging, and
video capabilities. Today, billions of people use social media sites to interact across the
world and share various pieces of content, including photos, news reports, Web links,
and posts. A recent poll established that 22 percent of teenagers log on to their various
social media sites more than ten times in any given day, while over half of adolescents
visited the same sites more than once in a single day (O'Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson,
2011). As more people have begun to own smartphones, the use of social media has
continued to rise, shaping the emotional, mental, and social development of the modern
generation. Social media sites offer viable tools for modern communication among
individuals and even large organizations; they enable the sharing of ideas, opinions,
and vital information. The purpose of this paper is to explore the current literature and
determine whether existing research supports the theory that social media use
contributes to depression among users.
Depression is a critical public health issue, but the exact causes of this mental
disorder remain unknown. However, researchers have strived to examine whether there
is a link between the use of social media and depression by conducting several studies 
SOCIAL MEDIA AND DEPRESSION 3
among users. One such study involved over 700 students in the United States to
determine the association between Facebook use, feelings of envy, and depression.
This research showed that Facebook can trigger feelings of envy among users (Tandoc,
Ferrucci, & Duffy, 2015), which may consequently cause depression. In this case,
feelings of envy related to the use of Facebook were responsible for symptoms of
depression, an outcome that was noted in users who regularly compared themselves
with the others on Facebook. Notably, Tandoc et al. (2015) established that the use of
Facebook alone did not contribute to depression, but rather the most critical factor for
symptoms of depression was what the researchers called “Facebook envy”. Those who
experienced increased feelings of envy when viewing the activities and photos of friends
were the ones most likely to develop increased signs associated with depression
(Tandoc et al., 2015). Feelings of low mood were inevitable if people continued to
monitor Facebook posts of their friends. However, the researchers noted that the
relationships between these variables remained complex due to the presence of other
underlying factors, including mental health status, lifestyle, and individual traits (Tandoc
et al., 2015). The study, therefore, concluded that there was no direct relationship
between Facebook use and depression.
While Tandoc et al. (2015) did not establish a direct link between Facebook and
depression, other researchers have introduced the term ‘Facebook depression’. It was
meant to refer to depression that occurs when “preteens and teens spend a great deal
of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic
symptoms of depression” (O'Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011, p. 800). Issues, such as
increased contact with and acceptance by peers, are fundamental motivations for social 
SOCIAL MEDIA AND DEPRESSION 4
media use. Consequently, researchers have noted that the extent of social media use
could be a factor that may trigger depression in some users. O'Keeffe and ClarkePearson (2011) also observed that preteens and teenagers who experienced ‘Facebook
depression’ were at relatively higher risks for social isolation. In some instances, they
could turn to other websites that offer unsolicited and potentially dangerous sex advice,
depictions of substance abuse, and other forms of self-destructive behaviors.
On the same note, some researchers have singled out suicide as a possible
consequence of social media use. The relationship between suicide and depression has
been well documented in the past studies (Beskow, 1990). Given such associations,
researchers are now interested in how social media sites have been used to aid suicide
attempts among users. They have, however, pointed out that the extent of social
media’s influence on suicidal tendencies, if the link exists at all, is not simple to
establish due to the many other underlying variables (Luxton et al., 2012). Another
possible link between social media use and depression comes from cyberb 


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