If you’re keeping a hawk’s eye on your Twitter account throughout the day, you’re more susceptible to being depressed (regardless of who you’re following on your feed).
A new study has found that people who check social media regularly in their daily routine are three times more likely to have depression.
A study out of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine and funded by the National Institutes of Health examined 1,787 people aged 19-32 and their usage of different social media platforms. The average came to checking their preferred medias 31 times a day – remember, this is an average – totaling for just over an hour of social snooping.
People who checked the most often were 2.7 times more likely to suffer from depression than those who checked the least.
Lead author Lyu yu Lin is careful to make it clear: this doesn’t necessarily mean social media is actively causing depression.
“It may be that people who already are depressed are turning to social media to fill a void,” she said in a news release.
She doesn’t discount factors such as “highly idealized representations of peers,” a feeling of time wasted, and exposure to cyber-bullying, as possible depression triggers via social media, however.
“All of these things are possibilities … my guess is that it probably is some kind of combination,” senior author Dr. Brian A. Primack agreed.
“It’s very likely a double-edged sword, where there are a lot of potential uses for this technology but there’re also risks associated with it.”
The study’s authors recognize an opportunity for social media sites to aid the battle against depression, now the leading cause of disability, according to the World Health Organization.
“I think it’s very important to say that just because we found this tendancy (a relatively strong tendancy,) … that doesn’t mean it’s going to be exactly that way for everybody,” Primack continued. “There very well may be ways that people use social media to alleviate depression, or to increase happiness.”
Some social media sites like Tumblr already leverage their position of power; it’ll ask the user “Everything okay?”, if they’re searching for words like ‘depression’ or ‘suicide’, and links to crisis intervention websites.
“Hopefully by us quantifying this, it at least brings us more to the table so that people can be thinking about how to use this medium, and not let the medium use them.”