A barrage of information has been barreling into our news feeds lately about the connection between mood and screen time, as well as mood and social media. The sheer volume, not to mention the differing conclusions, can make it hard to figure out what’s worth of our attention, and what is simply attention-getting.
Nancy Jo Sales’ new book “Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers” has been getting a ton of buzz. No wonder. In it, the contributing Vanity Fair editor, who previously wrote a book about teen thieves called The Bling Ring, has included some eye-popping insight into how teen lives are impacted by Facebook, Snapchat and the like.
Sales bases the book on interviews with approximately 200 teenagers over the course of two and a half years. Her peek into their social-media saturated lives reveals a world where often-sexualized images are just about everything. The book contains no shortage of horror stories about sexting, revenge porn and cyberbullying. Her conclusion, not surprisingly, is that social media is destroying teens lives.
Dramatic? Perhaps. But now a just-released study is based on a much larger sample pool of people, albeit from an older age bracket. Researchers at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine studied 1,787 U.S. adults ages 19 through 32 to find out if there was a link between social media use and depression. Not only did researchers find a strong correlation, but here’s the kicker: Those who showed signs of depression averaged 61 minutes of social media use per day. Not a ton of time actually, and far less than another survey suggests, that the average American spends 100 minutes per day on social networks. The latter is data based on a survey taken by 50,000 participants.
The University of Pittsburgh researchers also discovered another interesting, if ironic, twist: Many of the social media users who showed signs of depression often turn to — you guessed it, social media — in a thwarted attempt to feel better and more connected to others.
It’s enough to make you feel kinda down.