Have you ever been scrolling through your social media feed only to start feeling lonely or sad about your life? Don't worry, it turns out you're not alone.
A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found a causal link between time spent on social media and loneliness or depression. It also found that people who cut back on time spent on social media had a dramatic improvement in mood and how they feel about their life.
“It was striking,” says Melissa Hunt, psychology professor at University of Pennsylvania, who led the study. “What we found over the course of three weeks was that rates of depression and loneliness went down significantly for people who limited their (social media) use.”
The study looked at 143 undergraduate students and the University of Pennsylvania. Half of the participants were asked to continue using their social media normally, while the other half were restricted to ten minutes per day for Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat for a total of 30 minutes each day.
This isn't the first study to show that social media use and loneliness or depression are correlated, but this is the first one that says there is an actual causal link. Other studies implied that people who spend time on social media may simply be more likely to be depressed than people who are not.
The University of Pennsylvania study didn't 100 percent conclude why social media leads to depression. Although it did offer two possible explanations. One is "downward social comparison," where you see all the fun things your friends are doing in their lives and compare them to what you're doing, and you feel worse about yourself because what you're doing isn't as exciting. The other is FOMO, or the Fear of Missing Out, meaning you see something exciting happening somewhere and get anxiety because you're not partaking.