Social Media and its Impact on Depression
The aim of my research is to determine the correlation between depression and social media use. The question I pose is this specifically: how large is the correlation between social media use and depression? My research should prove that not only is there a correlation, but that it is something that can be looked upon from years ago to show just how large an impact social media has on depression shown in users of all ages. The rise of social media has essentially changed the way people interact with each other forever, becoming integral to our everyday lives. Theoretically, if the correlation is deemed large enough, then it can lead to further studies on this topic to continue to find answers and solutions on the effects of depression on people, and how to overcome these issues. With young teens and children increasingly using social media more and more, the research being conducted can lead parents to consider being a check on their kids’ social media use, as well as their own, to prevent depression from occurring in the first place. This research can also be seen as a gateway for people (especially young adults and/or teens) to open up about their issues and struggles with depression and how to cope with it. As history as shown, social media use has seen a large increase of usage over the past decade with the advent of smart phones and technology becoming more in everyday lives; some would even see it as a crutch for many to even function on an everyday basis. This research is critical to determining the effect social media has on depression and how it can be hindered or stopped altogether.
LITERATURE REVIEW/PREVIOUS RESEARCH
Previous studies into this topic have yielded mostly similar results, with some key additions added and expounded upon. In a previous study done by The American Academy of Pediatrics, researchers have coined a term they call “Facebook depression”, a form of depression that forms in adolescents due to plenty of time spent on social media websites such as Twitter, and, as it is named after, Facebook, which then leads to leading signs of depression forming (O’Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011). Previous studies also specified some limitations as the info being posted was not entirely accurate, or truth-withholding. When expanded upon, what was noted was that, essentially, online users can fabricate their identity, obscuring potentially valuable info. Said fabrications cannot be deemed entirely reliable, blurring the line between what is true and what is false. These falsehoods throw legitimate studies and data gatherings into flux, causing confusion and hesitation to really understand what problems lay with social media use. (Moorhead et. al, 2013). When presented with positivity, social media has been linked as a non-factor in regards to the prognosis of Depression in users. The inverse is sadly true as well: users who are presented with negativity have been linked to Depression, with social media use being a leading cause of it (Seabrook & Kern & Rickard, 2016). Increased cell phone usage was seen a conduit for increased depression cases in teenagers and young adults. According to a 2015 study, nearly two out of every three teens had a cell phone of some sort; in addition to this, a staggering 90% of teens using the internet specifically for social media use, with 24% of teens always “online” (Lenhart, A. 2015). From 2010 to 2015, teens experienced more depression related symptoms, such as suicide, as opposed to those of other ages, with women reporting higher feelings of these symptoms. More onscreen time and less off-screen time can be pointed to the increase of these symptoms amongst teens. On the other hand, however, real life events, such as unemployment and potential stock assets were not seen as a leading cause of depression or suicide-related symptoms (Twenge, J. et. al, 2017). From a psychological perspective, people enjoy seeing numbers go up; the bigger the number, the happier our brain becomes. To add to this, people enjoy when their content is “Liked”; the number next to their content goes up and up, giving our brains relief and pleasure. Websites like Facebook let you “Like” posts, showing your approval of the content. Reddit has a feature where “Liking” a post can get a post “upvotes”; the higher the upvote count, the more likely that comment will be seen by the masses. Twitter lets you “Like” tweets, as well as “Retweet” them, letting your followers see the tweet as well. All of these factors come together in a study that shows that users seeing these “Likes” affect them psychologically, shaping the way they use their social media accounts. Increased social media usage leads these teens to depend on these sites for social satisfaction and acceptance; negative reactions to their posts or content leads teenagers to more cases of depressive moods and potential hazardous activities, such as substance abuse or an overall greater use of social media, which leads to increased depressive states (Szwedo & Mikami & Allen. 2012). According to a study done by The Royal Society for Public Health, social media use may as well be a bigger drug than alcohol or cigarettes as well as, when paired with other research conducted, again shows that 90% of teens use social media in some capacity. With social media use brings he aspects of cyber bullying; a reported seven out of ten teens have experienced cyber bullying in some way while using social media (Keracher, M. 2017). Furthermore, in general, studies have not taken into account how social media users divulge personal information unintentionally that is not meant for users to see, leading to potential harassment and bullying; these studies do not address these possible factors being a cause for depression appearing in teens and children. Other possible factors not expounded upon were the home lives of the subjects, as well as any earlier cases of symptoms of depression. A stable home life, such as having a loving and supporting family willing to help you with anything, be a great structure for people of all ages to stay focused and committed; having a disruptive family or home life can lead to increased causes of depression symptoms, with a worst case scenario involving suicide attempts and other forms of self-inflicting harm.
My research will be sure to specify the gender of those asked, as well as their age and school and/or job status that previous studies did not. In addition to this, my research will look to identify how much time is spent on social media, how many users have already been diagnosed with depression, and how often do they feel the feeling of depression, regardless of social media use. Overall, my specific aim is to determine the traits and qualities of those who use social media that experience depression. To conduct my research, I plan to use surveys, deploy questionnaires, and conduct sit-down interviews. My research will make sure to specify gender, race, age and school/work status to get a better idea on who is experiencing depression. The Independent Variable of my study is the social media use. The Dependent Variable will be the depression itself. Several moderating variables can be a lack of social skills which can lead to increased social media usage, the age of the user themselves, their gender, and their overall happiness with their work and school lives. Previous research has noted that, depending on the study, males experience more depressive symptoms than women, and vice-versa. This data suggests that not every test is the same, and these potential differences must be accounted for before an absolute conclusion can be reached. I hypothesize that people who use social media frequently will be more likely to experience and be diagnosed with depression than those who do not use social media as frequently.
I will be conducting numerous non-experimental interviews of people of all ages and genders to get specific categories down for individuals for the purpose of my study. In addition to this, surveys will be conducted, asking individuals their levels of depression they have felt, if they have experienced depression before (and after) social media use, and for those who have experienced it, how sever their depression is. Participants will be assigned to conditions based on how severe their level of depression is and how long they have experienced feelings of depression. In addition to this, the individual’s dependence on social media will be used as a condition too. Recruitment of the participants will occur on social media platforms that many are likely to use on a daily basis. Web links for the experiment page and conditions of the study will be posted on Facebook and Twitter, two of the biggest social media platforms that generate many clicks and garner many eyes and influence. Attrition will be prevented by making it clear that this study is nothing but helpful for anyone who participates in it; open and easy communication will be provided for each participant and will be clear that any help they may need or want will be provided. During the study, the users will not do anything drastically different than what they already do; they will be tasked with using social media as they normally would, but now will be asked to self-monitor their self-being and write down any feelings of depression they may feel, regardless of its severity. Since this study will be non-experimental, my role in the study will just be to observe the results from the subjects’ answers regarding the depression questions; I will not have to interfere with any of the subject’s uses of social media. Assistants will not be necessary for this because the participants are all recording their feeling and severity levels of it. Compensation will be provided in the form of money paid at a later date after the study has been concluded (no later than four months after it is finished). If the participant is a student at a college or institution, then this study will be allowed for an assignment completion, provided that the professor allows for it. An Exempt IRB review will be required for this study; no physical harm will ever befall any of the participants while conducting this research, with a less than minimal risk being in place. Informed consent will first be asked for before any participant begins the study; a written form of consent will need to be signed upon, with both parties agreeing to it, before anything can begin. This form will go into great detail on what the study entails, with potential dangers being depressive moods felt during the duration of the study. The study will involve a select group of randomly chosen individuals from a pool of 800. About 300 of them will be chosen, with these participants ranging from all different ages, ethnicities and genders. Other factors that will be included are whether or not they are married, have any kids, have been (or are currently) divorced, and their yearly income over the years. In addition to this, psychological conditions and any physical ailments they may have will be taken into consideration too when breaking down the study’s results. To assess this in my participants, I will go over every participant that was in the study and see how many hours they used social media for the duration of the study; 0-12 hours of social media use per week will be seen as “Little Use”. 13-20 will be “Moderate Use”. 21+ hours will be seen as “Much Use”. A Nominal Scale will be employed; men and women are both being participants in this study, with neither being better than the other, but are, instead, just different. A high sense of self-esteem should result in a moderate or little use of social media use; a low sense of self-esteem should yield results showing much use. The Dependent Variable will be depression itself, seeing as the depression levels and symptoms experienced are dependent on the social media use. With that in mind, the Independent Variable will be the social media use. Before the study is conducted, the participants will list any notions or feelings of depression they have experienced before. As noted earlier, age, gender, job status, and more variables will specifically be Moderating Variables in the study, as these factors can wildly change what a person feels and how often they feel it. Limitations of this study are numerous. Because some of these surveys will be conducted, there is no way to fully know if the participants are being absolutely truthful with their answers. Even though the surveys will be anonymous, and only I will be able to see who conducted them, it is still basic human nature to lie about something that will negatively impact themselves, or reflect badly on them, despite knowing that no one will know these results. In addition, even though attrition will be avoided with compensation being given, there is no concrete way to ensure that the participants indeed stay fully committed to the study. Overall, this study will have to ensure that the participants are made sure that their willingness to participate is paramount and beneficial to not only themselves, but for the research implications going forward.
- O’Keeffe, G. S., & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). Clinical report—the impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families. Pediatrics, peds-2011.
- Moorhead, S. A., Hazlett, D. E., Harrison, L., Carroll, J. K., Irwin, A., & Hoving, C. (2013). A new dimension of health care: systematic review of the uses, benefits, and limitations of social media for health communication. Journal of medical Internet research, 15(4).
- Seabrook, E. M., Kern, M. L., & Rickard, N. S. (2016). Social networking sites, depression, and anxiety: a systematic review. JMIR mental health, 3(4).
- Lenhart, A., Purcell, K., Smith, A., & Zickuhr, K. (2010). Social Media & Mobile Internet Use among Teens and Young Adults. Millennials. Pew internet & American life project.
- Twenge, J. M., Joiner, T. E., Rogers, M. L., & Martin, G. N. (2018). Increases in depressive symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates among US adolescents after 2010 and links to increased new media screen time. Clinical Psychological Science, 6(1), 3-17.
- Szwedo, D. E., Mikami, A. Y., & Allen, J. P. (2012). Social networking site use predicts changes in young adults’ psychological adjustment. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 22(3), 453-466.
- Keracher, M. (2017). RSPH-YHM Social Media & Health Report. Royal Society For Public Health. [PDF File] Retrieved from https://www.rsph.org.uk/uploads/assets/uploaded/62be270a-a55f-4719-ad668c2ec7a74c2a.pdf
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