Depression significantly linked to social media use no matter your personality – new study

  • A new study from the US shows that increased social media use is linked with depression.
  • It was found that a person’s personality type does not impede the chances of developing depression from social media use.
  • Over the years there have been numerous other studies conducted on the dangers of social media.

Researchers from the University of Arkansas in the US have published a new study that has found that for each personality type, increased social media use was “significantly” associated with developing depression.

Further, the study found that associations between social media use and developing depression symptoms did not vary according to any personality characteristic – meaning that no one, no matter how they behave and think, is safe from the negative effects of social media.

According to the study, titled Associations between social media use, personality structure, and development of depression, depression is now the leading cause of disability and mortality worldwide. About one in six people will develop depression in their lifetime and usually, it develops when individuals are in their late teens to mid-twenties.

This, incidentally, coincides with the average ages of users of Facebook (25 – 35), Instagram (25 – 34), and especially TikTok (10 – 19) and Twitter (18 – 29). The study itself assessed 978 social media users who were young adults, between the ages of 18 – 30.

Why personality matters in depression studies

The study says that personality has long been an important area of study for understanding and predicting human behaviour and an individual’s environment plays a key role in the forming of one’s personality. It has also been shown in past studies that personality traits have been related to depression and patterns of consuming media.

Importantly, personality traits, such as openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism, have been shown to affect a person’s susceptibility to things like depression, because of social processes like sensitivity to miscommunications or social comparisons.

The study found that people who are more agreeable had lower odds of developing depression, while people with high neuroticism had double the odds of developing depression symptoms. Importantly, all personality types have been found to be able to develop depression due to social media use.

The numerous other studies on the dangers of social media

Other recent studies have also connected social media use to depression. A 2021 study found that people in the US who used the most social media were three times as likely to become depressed over a 6 month period compared with people who used the least social media.

The University of Arkansas study points to “multiple reasons” why there may exist a connection between social media use and depression. One of these reasons is that large amounts of time spend glued to social media may impede valuable time that could be spent on face-to-face human interaction.

Social media may also lead to people making problematic social comparisons. For example, people develop issues around their lives or appearances due to comparing themselves to the lives and appearances of others, unaware that social media doesn’t reflect the real world.

Finally, it has been found that the chaos of communication on social media may increase miscommunications, leading to relationship difficulties and an increased risk of developing mental illness.

Terrible outcomes

The damage of depression stemming from social media use can be devastating, especially for younger individuals.

Last week a 14-year old girl in London was found by the coroner to have “died from an act of self-harm while suffering from depression and the negative effects of online content”. Molly Russel, who passed away in 2017, was found to be a user of Instagram and Pinterest, where she would consume hours of content about self-harm.

The dangers of the technology go beyond affecting a person’s mental health, and misinformation on sites like Facebook can lead to terrible outcomes, such as the 2020 Myanmar Rohingya genocide. It is up to these websites to police the spread of fake news.

In February Twitter locked several security analysts out of their accounts for spreading misinformation in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Social media and its incredible popularity will only increase going forwards, and users are becoming younger and younger. Users are reminded to use everything in moderation and keep their critical thinking active.


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