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The Societal Cost of Modern Social Media Technologies

Online social media is increasingly being blamed for mental health problems in younger people. This post will review some of the latest research on the topic of social media and its potentially deleterious effect on the youth of today.

A recent research review which surveyed 13 different studies which looked into the effect of online social media on younger people. Four aspects of social media were considered including time spent, activity, investment, and addiction. 

Specifically with respect to time spent
One study in Australia found no relationship between how much someone is using social media and how depressed they are. Another study from Canada found that social media use over 2 hours was associated with psychological distress. Another study from 6 different European countries of over 10,000 adolescence found a positive relationship between heavy social media use & depression plus anxiety. One of the more recent studies in 2017 of Chinese adolescence found time spent on social media to be associated with anxiety.

Specifically with respect to activity
A research study in 2016 discovered that passive & active use of Facebook in a group of high school students from Belgium was associated with an increased incidence of depressed feelings. A newer study from 2017 of over a hundred kid to parent pairs discovered a correlation between children's social media activities and anxiety & depression. To provide you with an opposing side for the argument a study out of Serbia did not find a relationship between social media activities & depression in a group of students in high school.

Specifically with respect to investment
A 2012 study discovered an important connection between the number of identity related information on Facebook profiles & depressive tendencies in adolescents. Most recently 2 studies out of Western Australia looked at the connection between investment in social media & an increase in depression. What these Western Australian studies found was that investment in social media sites was related to increased incidence of depression.

Specifically with respect to addiction
Out of the 13 studies mentioned three studies centralized on addiction as a theme or topic. A 2000 study from Thailand, of almost 1000 high school students from wealthy communities in the district, discovered a relationship between addiction to Facebook and incidence of depression. Another two studies out of China quite recent from 2017 and 2018 respectively, found that being addicted to social media was strongly associated with depression and Rumination, or over-thinking critically about self.

According to these summaries of the research all aspects were correlated with depression anxiety and psychological distress.

In observing the results of these studies you have to be careful to regard the relationships as correlations & not causational. As a result you cannot say social media causes depression & anxiety, just that it is associated /connected with it. 

Although we can certainly track people's investment and actions on social media it is difficult to make a general authoritative statement about the impact of social media on people's individual Mental Health. Even so the more that we learn about the potentially harmful impact of social media infrastructure & design impact on our youth we can adopt and adjust our technologies to reflect the reality of the times.

If you are interested in the article which informed this post please visit tandfonline.

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