Does Social Media cause depression?

Belle Akeredolu '24

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Is it true that social media causes depression in young teenagers or is it a misconception? Another investigation into Facebook has been launched as a result of a whistleblower, Frances Haugenon, who claims that Facebook is aware of the app's detrimental impacts on young girls and that they are putting profit over moral responsibility. A study conducted by San Diego State University and Flordia State University in 2017 on the connections between increased screen time and increases in depressive symptoms, suicide-related actions, and suicide rates among American teenagers found that the number of 12th graders experiencing severe depression symptoms increased by 33% between 2010 and 2015.  The suicide rate for girls in that age range jumped by 65 percent during the same time period. News stories and studies like these leave many parents wondering how safe social media is for their children. Mrs. Kirsten Adams (Head of School) tells us her concern over the safety of social media saying, “There is just negative stuff that happens on social media. I don’t want people to be surrounded by negativity all the time. That is my biggest worry.” 

However, after speaking with a number of people, I discovered that only a small number of people in our community actually believe social media is a major contributor to their unhappiness. According to local saints' replies to a poll, 83 percent of saints believe that some outside source, not social media, is to blame for their depression. With Loui Goin (9th grade) saying “I don’t think social media causes my anxiety, I think most of it comes from the amount of school work I get everyday.” Every person's experience with social media is vastly different. Therefore, it is difficult for me to conclude that social media is a major cause of depression. When asked if social media causes depression or if it’s an outside source, Anna Strauss (9th grade) answered, “I think social media is one of main sources, but it’s up to how much you post and how vulnerable you are on the internet. Because the more vulnerable you are, the easier it is to be affected by it mentally.” 

On social media, everyone's experience is so diverse. Not everyone uses the same applications, follows the same individuals, or enjoys the same kind of content. There are just too many factors to consider before determining that social media causes depression in general. However, that is not to imply that social media does not have bad features that affect people. 

For social media users, digital contacts are less emotionally fulfilling, which can leave them feeling socially isolated. As we attempt to keep up with regular online updates, we prioritize social ties that aren't as emotionally rewarding and that may actually make us feel more lonely. When asked what are some negative aspects of social media that affect you, Coach Stephanie Koroma (Athletic Director for Girls) said, “I feel like when I engage on social media, it's not authentic engagement. Like with friends or people that I enjoy having face-to-face conversation with, or who I enjoy telling stories with.” 

On the flip side, for people who are geographically isolated, move often, or do not feel accepted in their schools and communities, having these internet connections can be essential. Chris Shorter (10th grade) said, “I moved to a lot of schools, in the past four years, I was at three different schools. And social media was my way to keep in touch with people after I moved schools. And, I think reconnecting with those friends from 7th or 8th grade really helped improve my mental health rather than let it down.” 

So, is social media bad for young teenagers? Can we conclude that social media has caused a surge in depression among teenagers since everyone's online experience and situation is unique? Judging by the responses of local Saints, the jury is still out.