Melissa G. Hunt, Ph.D. Diplomate - Academy of Cognitive Therapy Chair - PENDELDOT Associate Director of Clinical Training Department of Psychology University of Pennsylvania

Is Social Media Making You Depressed and Lonely?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Melissa G. Hunt, Ph.D. Diplomate - Academy of Cognitive Therapy Chair - PENDELDOT Associate Director of Clinical Training Department of Psychology University of PennsylvaniaMelissa G. Hunt, Ph.D.

Diplomate – Academy of Cognitive Therapy
Chair – PENDELDOT
Associate Director of Clinical Training
Department of Psychology
University of Pennsylvania


MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Lots of prior research has established a correlation, or association, between social media use and depression.  Ours is the first study to establish an actual causal relationship between using more social media, and feeling more depressed.  

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? 

Response: We improved on prior research in a number of ways.

  • First, the study was experimental.
  • Second, we got objective data on how much people were using social media, rather than relying on self-report, or how much people believed (or were willing to admit) that they were using it.
  • Third, we included three of the major platforms that folks in this age group use, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.
  • Fourth, we did a week of baseline data collection before asking half the people to change their behavior.  This allowed us to account for the effects of self-monitoring.
  • Finally, we set realistic goals for use (10 minutes per platform per day) rather than requiring complete abstinence, which is probably unrealistic for millennials. 

We found that over three weeks, participants who were randomly assigned to limit their use showed significant declines in depression and loneliness compared the people who kept using as normal.  Lots of our subjects shared that participating in the study made them realize how much time they had been spending on social media and how much happier and more productive they were when they limited their use.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: What readers should take away is that social media may be fine in moderation, but you shouldn’t spend much more than a half hour per day passively scrolling and comparing yourself to other people.  It’s much better to use that time engaging in activities that make you feel good about yourself and strengthen social bonds with people in person.

So put down your phone, get your work done and go out to dinner with friends.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: We are currently running a related study examining the impact of dating apps on depression, self-esteem and self-perceived attractiveness.  We suspect that getting off dating apps may have an even more positive effect on well-being.

Citation:

Melissa G. Hunt, Rachel Marx, Courtney Lipson, Jordyn Young. No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 2018; 751 DOI: 10.1521/jscp.2018.37.10.751

Nov 9, 2018 @ 9:20 pm

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