Put the phone down and nobody feels bad

Image: Courtesy of Tim Savage via Pexels.

We already knew this, but a study has finally confirmed that depression and loneliness are linked to social media — and the fix is simple.

Alone in a crowded room’ is a familiar, perhaps overused phrase, that’s been around a while. 

Maybe it’s time it was update it to ‘alone looking at your crowded phone.’

A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania has finally proven what has been suspected ever since we started peering into the lives of others through our phones: social media is making us lonely.

Published in the December issue of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, researchers spent three weeks observing 143 students in an experimental study. Some students were asked to either use their social media (Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook) as they normally would, while others were asked to limit ten minutes to each app, each day.

The participants were asked to complete surveys before the start of the study with questions and statements designed to measure students’ well-being.

Such statements included: ‘When I feel lonely, there are several people I can talk to,’ and ‘I fear others have more rewarding experiences than me.’ The students were then randomly divided into limited-use groups or to continue using social media as normal.

After three weeks, researchers found that the students who were assigned to limit social media usage had different answers in the follow-up survey. Answers related to feelings of depression and loneliness dropped significantly, especially amongst those whose answers in the pre-study survey were indicative of high loneliness and depression.

Not surprisingly, when students limited the time they spent on Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook, they felt better than they had prior to the study.

As to why students may be more affected than older adults and social media, Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, told Time magazine: “I think young people, especially, look at the so-called ‘highlight reels’ people post on social and compare themselves, so they may feel depressed or negative emotions as a result.”

Researchers concluded that by limiting social media usage, or even being aware of how much time is spent on ‘socially connecting apps,’ young people could help to improve their feelings of loneliness and depression.

With knowing how much better we can feel by the simple action of limiting our phone use, the real challenge comes next: what to do with all of that freed up time.

Perhaps decluttering your mind or getting your fingers dirty is a good place to start.


Featured image: Pexels
Words: Taylor Paatalo | Subbing: Shruti Tangirala

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