The past decade has brought about a number of changes in technology and the way that we communicate on a societal level. We’ve gone from the days of making a call on the old rotary phone or writing a letter to a pen pal to a more tech based ways of communicating. Social media platforms have transformed the way that the new generation interacts and keeps up to date on the latest trends and news. While social media offers a fast and convenient way to socialize, there are drawbacks associated with its overuse. Recent studies have shown that young adults who heavily use social media are more prone to depression. Those who use multiple formats increase their risk in accordance with the numbers. Here is a closer look at the findings of the current research.
Structure of the study
The University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health sponsors a team of analysts with an interest in documenting the effects of social media. Their initial studies were put into motion with the goal of assessing what impacts social media has on young adults. The project began in 2014 with a sampling of 1,787 people between the ages of nineteen and thirty two years of age. An instrument was developed which consisted of a series of questions on the use of social media use along with a depression assessment instrument. The study documented the characteristics of individuals in the group for any potential linkages with relationship status, gender, race, education, time spent on social media and income level. This multifaceted study offered an excellent foundational study which was intended to gather basic facts for initial studies and further research that would be based upon the first findings.
The findings of the study show that people from this group who used social media platforms increase their risk of depression. Those using between seven and eleven platforms are three times ore vulnerable to developing symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. Those who reported using between zero and two social media platforms were less likely to exhibit the symptoms.
The chicken or the egg?
It is still unclear whether people who already exhibit the symptoms have a tendency to seek out social media or if the use of the platforms is causal. More research needs to be done to determine which is the case. Although there appears to be some type of association, it is still unclear whether or not the use of social media is the cause of the symptoms, but it has been established that there is a correlation of some type.
The value of the study
There are a few good things that came from the research. It gives mental health counselors who deal with social media enthusiasts who have anxiety and depression an avenue of exploration. Decreasing the use of social media platforms may reduce a person’s risk and it may also lessen the symptoms. It will take further testing and time to find out, but it is something to work with at this point.
Since the initial study has generated more questions about the topic, which good studies are supposed to do, more research will yield yet more information about the verifiable impacts of social media platforms. Researchers have produced valuable data that sheds some light on the problem for now, and gives them a few new directions to go for further inquiry and research.
New questions arise
In addition to solving the mystery of whether use of multiple social media platforms leads to depression and anxiety, some other interesting questions have arisen which are worthy of closer examination. If it is a causal factor for these conditions where is the cutoff point and how can its use be more safely and effectively managed? What are the elements within social media use which lead to mental health symptoms? What are the characteristics of those who are more predisposed to anxiety and depression from use of social media?
These are provocative questions and finding the answers may be key in figuring out how to alleviate the symptoms more effectively. Perhaps the convenience of social media use and the ease of access is allowing a massive inflow of new information that the human brain has difficulty processing.
Further inquiries are needed
Cognitive overload is another issue that must also be considered. The constant flow of new information may be too overwhelming. It’s great to keep up on the latest news and events but are there limits to how much may be healthy? These are just a few more questions which have been generated by the initial round of research and study. One thing is for certain, and that is the fact that social media has dramatically changed the way that people interact with one another.
In light of the initial evidence produced it becomes quite clear that this is a public health concern that could have far reaching effects on society as a whole. In a world where more, faster, better, enhancements, speed, connectivity and other buzzwords which insinuate a faster pace in most aspects of our lives is becoming the norm, are we teaching our selves into an unhealthy mental state?
The University of Pittsburgh study has just begun to scratch the surface of a subject that many have wondered about for the past decade. Is it possible that we are seeing the downside of communications technology? Perhaps in the years to come we will have more definite answers about how technology is giving us what we want and demand in this new era, but is what we want really good for us? Humans have shown an amazing ability to adapt to new environments and technologies.
From a cognitive perspective, are we ready to handle the tremendous influx of information that is coming across our electronic devices? Do these gadgets have an effect upon the physical aspects of our body chemistry? Yet more questions that make the research even more exciting, yet leave us with a sense of dread that the answers may be ones that we really don’t want to hear.