Most people can agree that social media has ingrained itself into our every day lives, and it’s no secret that the abundance of platforms have given us as many problems as they do enhancements. Study after study have attempted to showcase the harms to social media, but University of Pennsylvania psychologist, Melissa G. Hunt, has conducted the first comprehensive, rigorous experiment on the well-being of social media users, publishing her discoveries in Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.
Here’s what happened
The U Penn research team designed the experiment to include Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram — the three most popular social platforms among undergraduates — and collected usage data tracked by iPhones for active applications. All 143 participants recorded their mood and overall feelings at the beginning of the experiment and provided the researchers screenshots of their iPhone battery screens to create a baseline of data. The students were then split, one group advised to maintain their normal social media habits, while the other group was told to limit their time to 10 times per app, per day. The study lasted three weeks, ending with Hunt analyzing the data along with the participants general feelings of loneliness, anxiety and fear of missing out.
Hunt reports that using less social media than normal, leads to a noticable decrease in feelings of anxiety and depression, especially among those who had heightened negative emotions at the beginning of the experiment.
Depression after connecting with others via social media
Users tend to use social platforms to compare their lives to others, putting up a facade, ultimately resulting in feelings of not being quite good enough, because it’s so simple to come to the conclusion that everyone’s life is better than yours.
Whether intentional or not, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of everyone else’s lives, but it’s important to remember that people only share the good stuff: engagements, relationships, promotions, new jobs, etc. The list is endless. But rarely will people ever share the hardships they inevitablably face in their lives.
Should we all just delete Instagram?
No. Hunt recognizes that it’s completely unrealistic to suggest that young people stop using social media altogether, but limiting time on social apps may not be such bad idea. It’s important that society figures out a way to use these platforms to benefit each other and limit the damaging effects on mental health
Hunt plans to continue her study among other age groups, along with a new study about the usage of dating apps. Stay tuned.