Experiment shows social media use increases depression and anxiety

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After the three weeks were up, the students were surveyed again using the same tools to measure their well-being. These tools measured outcomes like depression, loneliness, anxiety, and that most millennial of worries, fear of missing out. The group of students who limited their social media usage showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out from the start of the experiment. In particular, people who had higher levels of depression at the start of the study showed a decrease in depressive symptoms when they limited their social media time. One subject described the experience personally: “Not comparing my life to the lives of others had a much stronger impact than I expected, and I felt a lot more positive about myself during those weeks.”

While plenty have studies have looked at well-being and internet use and found that, for example, anxious people tend to have a problematic approach to internet use or that depression can be identified through social media use, this is the first study to confirm this link experimentally. It shows that it is not merely the case that depressed, anxious, or unhappy people happen to use social media more often, but rather that the act of using the sites decreases well-being. The researchers recommend limiting social media use to 30 minutes per day to improve your mood and mental health.

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