Doing Life Together

finger-769300_1920What happens to your emotions when you go on social media platforms? Could they become negative and lead to depression?

My daughter recently tried an experiment related to this question. She was given an assignment in one of her graduate school classes to unplug from all social media for 48 hours. No cell phone or computer usage at all.

It was surprisingly weird and a bit tough, making her realize how dependent we become on our devices and being plugged in. But what surprised her was that she felt better, less stressed and actually enjoyed reading a book. She went to bed at a decent time and awoke refreshed. She spent more time with her relationships and actually enjoyed just being with people.

We all know that social media can impact our emotions. We’ve had those experiences of being upset with mean tweets, crying over a moving video, or rejoicing with good news from friends.  What we may not know are the results of a recent study that looked at the relationship between social media and the number of platforms we use. Being highly connected could have its problems.

How many social media platforms do you use? The answer to this question could affect your mental health. The old adage, the more the merrier, does not hold up with social media and emotional health!

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that depression and social media usage correlate–the more platforms you are on, the more likely you are to be depressed or anxious. If you are on two or less platforms, you are probably at little risk. Seven to eleven platforms and your risk for depression and anxiety substantially increases.

Now, an association between two things like the number of platforms and symptoms of depression doesn’t tell us about causation. So questions like, does the work it takes to maintain all the platforms cause depression, or how does the use of apps contribute to emotional health, or does unplugging help reset the person, still need more research.

But it is helpful to know that too many platforms might put you at risk for depression. So take a look at your social media usage. If it is high, try cutting back or even consider a media fast and see how you feel. Make an effort to connect with people in real life and  see if your mood improves. Since social support is so important to mental health, you will probably see an improvement in your emotions.

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