Social media and depression – Facts to know

Is there a relationship between social media and depression? To answer this question, we asked Play Mind for an opinion. In this article we will discover the possible relationships between social networks and depression, going to identify the risks that constant exposure to Facebook or Instagram can entail.

Social media and depression, let’s talk about it with Play Mind!

What is Play Mind? It is a center of psychological services and personal well-being, directed by Dr. Paolo Di Marco: graduate in Community Clinical Psychology, Master in Counseling and Coaching, Specialization in Transactional Analytical Psychotherapy, Master in Gestalt Bodywork, accredited EMDR Practitioner psychotherapist. Coordinated by Dr. Di Marco, the psychotherapists of Play Mind aim to “activate the mind of those suffering from mental illness or an existential malaise”. The goal is to offer people a stimulus capable of reactivating their lives and getting back into the game in new ways, out of their usual script, to reactivate their lives.

The role of social media in mental health

Social media and depression

Human beings are social creatures. We need the company of others to thrive in life, and the strength of our connections has a huge impact on our happiness and mental health. Being socially connected to others can relieve stress, anxiety and depression, boost self-esteem, provide comfort and joy, prevent loneliness, and even add years to your life. Conversely, a lack of strong social connections can pose a serious risk to mental and emotional health.


Many of us rely on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram to find and connect with each other. Regardless of the fact that each has its own characteristics, it is important to remember that social media can never replace a human connection in the real world. Human contact requires in-person contact with others, to trigger hormones that relieve stress and make you feel happier, healthier, and more positive. Ironically for a technology designed to bring people closer, spending too much time interacting with social media can actually make you feel more lonely and isolated and exacerbate mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

If you are spending too much time on social media and feelings of sadness, dissatisfaction, frustration or loneliness are affecting your life, it may be time to reexamine your online habits and find a healthier balance.

The positive aspects of social media

While virtual social media interaction doesn’t have the same psychological benefits as face-to-face contact, there are many positive ways it can help you stay connected and support your well-being.

Social media allows you to:

  • Communicate and stay up to date with family and friends around the world.
  • Find new friends and communities; networking with other people who share similar interests or ambitions.
  • Participate or promote useful causes; raise awareness of important issues.
  • Seeking or offering emotional support in difficult times.
  • Finding a vital social connection if you live in a remote area, for example, or if you have limited independence, social anxiety, or are part of an outcast group.
  • Find an outlet for your creativity and personal expression.
  • Discover sources of valuable information and learning.

The Negative Aspects of Social Media and Depression

As a relatively new technology, there is little research to establish the long-term consequences, good or bad, of using social media. However, numerous studies have found a strong link between heavy social media and an increased risk of depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts.

Social media can promote negative experiences such as:

  • Inadequacy of your life or appearance. Constant comparison with other people in your circle, photos posted to celebrate the highlights and beautiful moments of their lives, can cause feelings of envy and dissatisfaction.
  • Fear of being left out. Although it has been around for years and well before social, sites like Facebook and Instagram seem to exacerbate the feeling that others are having fun or living a better life than yours. 
  • Isolation. A University of Pennsylvania study found that high use of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram increases rather less feelings of loneliness. Conversely, the study found that reducing social media usage can actually make you feel less lonely and isolated and improve your overall well-being.
  • Depression and anxiety. Human beings need face-to-face contact to be psychologically healthy. Nothing reduces stress and improves your mood faster or more effectively than eye contact with someone who takes care of you. The more you prioritize social media interaction over in-person relationships, the more you risk developing or exacerbating mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
  • Cyberbullying. About 10% of teens report being bullied on social media, and many other users are subject to abusive comments. 
  • Self-concern for the exclusion of others. Sharing endless selfies and all your innermost thoughts on social media can create an unhealthy self-centeredness and distance yourself from real-life connections.

How are you using social media?

Today, most of us access social media via our smartphones or tablets. Of course this makes it very convenient to stay in touch but it also means that social media is always accessible. This 24/7 hyper-connectivity can trigger serious impulse control problems because constant alerts and notifications affect concentration, disturbing sleep and making us slaves to the phone.

We must remember that….

Social media platforms are designed to grab attention, keep you online, and have you check your screen repeatedly for updates. Just like a gambling compulsion or a nicotine, alcohol, or drug addiction, the use of social media can create psychological cravings. Did you know that the more likes you get on a post, the more dopamine your brain releases? It is the same “reward” chemical that is released after a win on slot machines, or after a bite of chocolate or after lighting a cigarette. The more rewarded you are, the more time you want to spend on social media, even if it becomes detrimental to other aspects of your life.

How to minimize the negative effects of social media

It is clear that social media can have negative effects on a person’s mental health. If you suspect your mental health is suffering from time online, follow these tips:

  • Disconnect for a certain period of time!
  • Set time limits on your phone for social media sites!
  • Delete your social media accounts for a certain amount of time!
  • Challenge a friend to switch off with you and be mutual support!
  • Keep your phone out of reach whenever possible!
  • Stop using your phone in bed!

If only these precautions were enough we would all be happy and happy, unfortunately we know that this is not the case and sometimes the intervention of professional assistance is necessary. When people address the topic of social media and depression, they shouldn’t underestimate it because like anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome or any other psychological condition, it can significantly reduce their quality of life.

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