New research examines the link between social media and depression. Millennials are getting hit the hardest.
The term “millennial” is bantered around (usually with disdain) in the media. It’s become a catch-all phrase that means “a person or group younger than me – especially if I don’t agree with them.”
While the years differ slightly depending on the source, millennials are generally considered those individuals born between the years of 1984 and 2004. [You might be surprised to realize the first “millennials” are nearing the age of forty. Yes, forty.]
These years were critical to mankind’s development due to the vast advancement of technology and the explosion of social media.
Say what you will about AOL, Yahoo, and Myspace – such platforms changed the way human beings communicate around the world. They set the stage for the social media giants we have today such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, and more.
The Access to Information is Amazing
You have the ability to connect to anyone in the world through your phone, tablet, or computer with minimal cost and effort.
With the right stream of words, you can find information on any topic, person, or event in the world (past or present, real or imaginary). You can offer your opinion on major world happenings. You can peek into the lives of your friends, colleagues, schoolmates, or total strangers with relative ease.
Say Goodbye to Privacy
As we should have foreseen, such unlimited access does have its drawbacks.
For instance, anything you can find out about your neighbor – they can find out about you. Same goes for co-workers, exes, or someone you went to school with.
Additionally, once something is released via the internet, it’s very difficult to make it disappear. Social media makes access to information lightning fast and it’s nearly impossible to stop the progression of a post, photo, article, or video once a handful of people have it.
Social media and depression are very real problems for every generation.
The “baby boomer” (those born between 1944-1964) and the all-but-invisible “generation X” (those born between 1964-1984) folks quickly learned powerful (and sometimes dangerous) lessons about the changing tech landscape.
People young and old flocked to the easy availability of information without truly understanding the reach these websites had to people you didn’t know (and perhaps wouldn’t want to know).
Privacy was no longer absolute, secrets became intangible, and everything in the dark could be dragged into the light.
This affected no generation as dramatically – and often painfully – as it did millennials.
Depression and social media cyberbullying go hand-in-hand for this age group and it’s no wonder. Remember when you were a teenager?
Sure, bad things happened and life could be filled with anxiety…but it was unlikely that your entire school, neighborhood, or town would have all the details. Complete with photos or video.
A study published by the University of Pittsburgh found that millennials who spend an excessive amount of time on multiple social media platforms (between 7 and 11 sites) had more than three times the risk of depression and anxiety of their peers who limited their social media engagement to two sites or less. Even if they spend equal time scrolling through their feeds.
The national survey on social media use, conducted by Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health (CRMTH), was so consistent that the authors suggest mental health professionals include social media habits in their assessments and treatment recommendations for patients.
Brian A. Primack, M.D., PhD is the lead author of the study that evaluated almost 1,800 adults (age 19 to 32). He explained that it’s difficult to determine “which came first” regarding the link between anxiety, depression, and social media use.
“While we can’t tell from this study whether depressed and anxious people seek out multiple platforms or whether something about using multiple platforms can lead to depression and anxiety, in either case the results are potentially valuable.”
During the course of the study, the researchers determined several aspects that may contribute to a higher level of social media depression.
- Multi-tasking has been connected to general cognitive decline and poor mental health.
- User mistakes are more common when flipping between multiple sites.
- Social missteps are more likely to occur such as sharing unintended information.
No matter your age, social media isn’t going away. In fact, it’s going to expand even more in the following decades. To combat this growing issue before it gets worse, here are a few tips to “social media” responsibly.
7 Tips to Control Social Media (Not the Other Way Around)
- Pick your two or three favorite social media sites and keep the others off your phone. Make it harder to check them during “production” hours.
- A big issue on social media is comparing yourself to other people. Don’t think everyone else’s lives are perfect. Remember that most people post about the good things happening in their lives and avoid mentioning much of the bad.
- Close out of social media when spending time with family or friends. The virtual world should always take second place to your real one.
- Avoid stalking people who are no longer part of your life. It wouldn’t be healthy (or legal) to follow them around in your car…it isn’t healthy to do it online either.
- Set a daily limit that you allow yourself to engage. Try (I know it’s hard) to avoid scrolling social media right before bed.
- Avoid scrolling at your place of work. That isn’t the time or place to surf social media. Whether you work from home or for a company – you’re not making great use of your work hours if you’re watching cat videos.
- Never, ever check social media while driving. This shouldn’t even need to be said but statistics from the National Safety Council found that 1-in-4 car accidents involved a driver using a cell phone at the time of the crash. Experts believe this number is extremely conservative and that the toll is actually much higher.
Every once in a while, attempt a “social media blackout.”
Set a period of time – a day, the entire weekend, a week – to completely stop accessing all social media sites. You’ll be shocked at the time you save, how productive you are, and how much better you feel mentally and emotionally.
I try to do this at least twice a year to kind of reset my brain and how I spend my time. It’s almost immediately effective.
It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way
For you millennials out there, we prior generations grew up without every possible moment of your life being recorded and broadcast to the world at large.
We still mess up on social media but we tend to be a lot more stringent about our privacy. It’s okay to keep part of your life private. It’s okay to hold things back as too personal to share. It’s okay to not follow the masses.
Take a deep breath and put this incredible (and potentially destructive) tool in its place. Anxiety, depression, and social media don’t have to be part of your daily life.
It’s just sort of happened like that.
Huffington Post: 10 Statistics That Capture the Dangers of Texting and Driving