Greater time spent on social networking sites (SNS) and frequency of checking SNS were associated with higher levels of depression, according to a recent study. In order to examine the relations between SNS usage and depression, researchers conducted 4 separate meta-analyses relating depression to: 1) time spent on SNS, 2) SNS checking frequency, 3) general, and 4) upward social comparisons on SNS. They compared the 4 mean effect sizes in terms of magnitude. A literature search yielded 33 articles with a sample of 15,881 for time spent on SNS, 12 articles with a sample of 8,041 for SNS checking frequency, and 5 articles with a sample of 1,715 and 2,298 for the general and the upward social comparison analyses, respectively. They found:
- In both SNS-usage analyses, greater time spent on SNS and frequency of checking SNS were associated with higher levels of depression with a small effect size.
- Further, higher levels of depression were associated with greater general social comparisons on SNS with a small to medium effect, and greater upward social comparisons on SNS with a medium effect.
Yoon S, Kleinman M, Mertz J, Brannick M. Is social network site usage related to depression? A meta-analysis of Facebook-depression relations. [Published online ahead of print January 27, 2019]. J Affect Disord. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2019.01.026.
This study contributes to existing literature regarding negative aspects of personal interaction via electronic means. Stack-Sullivan’s Interpersonal Theory, for example, posits that we develop our personality through social relations. Increasingly, in the age of technology, these are less in-person and more digital in nature. A therapeutic approach to alleviating psychiatric symptoms would recommend increasing social support and connectedness. It is interesting, therefore, that we are now more connected and in touch with others than in previous decades, but that digital connectedness may not render protection against isolation and depression. In fact, it may actually escalate depression in certain individuals. Therefore, clinicians should try to determine which individuals are at risk of increased depression with social media use and then develop an interventional strategy to change social media use from driving interpersonal stress and cognitive distortions to one that will actually enhance relationships.—Thomas L. Schwartz, MD; Senior Associate Dean of Education, Interim Chair/Professor of Psychiatry, SUNY Upstate Medical University.