Does Social Media Cause Depression? What Recent Studies Are Showing?

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Social media can be both a blessing and a curse. It all depends on the way you look at it. However, increasing evidence shows that there is a link between depression and social media use. Various studies clearly suggest that young adults and teenagers that spend most of their time on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter tend to experience a higher rate of depression as compared to those that spend less time on social media. Could there be a correlation between social media and depression? Let’s find out. It is clear that social media has an adverse impact on young adults and teenagers. Moreover, the rise in smartphone use is also to blame.

A study was conducted in the year 2017 in which more than half a million 8th to 12th graders were found to exhibit an increase in depressive symptoms between the years 2010 to 2015. At the same time, the suicide rate among girls belonging to that same age group has increased rapidly.  Introduced in 2007, 92 percent of young adults and teens had a smartphone by 2015. Smartphone adoption might be to blame for depressive symptoms as reported by Jean Twenge, a psychologist at the San Diego State University. During the same period, there has been an increase in the number of students seeking help from counseling centers in order to deal with anxiety and depression.

Depression in the Age of Social Media

One of the main differences between the lives of present young adults and teenagers and earlier generations is that they are less likely to spend time connecting with peers in person and prefer connecting online using social media. Connections formed over social media tend to be less emotionally satisfying according to experts and is the cause of depression. Social media users end up feeling socially isolated instead of connected.

Psychologists are of the view that the less people connect with fellow human beings in an empathetic and deep way, the less they are likely to get benefits out of that social interaction. Thus, human interactions have become far more superficial than ever before which in turn leads to social media users feeling isolated and alone. These feelings are the main cause of depression. However, there is an exception for girls that maintain a high level of face to face social interaction and social media use. Depressive symptoms are not common among those students that interact ardently offline as compared to those students that only interacted online according to the Twenge study.

Things are even tougher for some teenagers that are not able to connect with their peers’ offline and online. This leads them suffering from severe depression and isolation. For some people, social media interactions can be lifesaving.

Perceived Isolation & Social Media

Another study was conducted to research on the effects of social media on young adults aged 19 to 32. It revealed that there is a correlation between social media use and perceived social isolation. Although directionality was not determined, it shows that social isolation is more common among people that spend majority of their time on social media. The main reason behind this is the fact that individuals that spend less time on authentic experiences suffer from perceived social isolation. On the other hand, it could be the highly curated social feeds which make one feel excluded. Thus, the term FOMO has become incredibly popular. 

Self-Esteem & Social Media

When looking at social media and depression, it is important to look at the effects of social media and self-esteem. When social media users spent more time online, they experienced a loss in self-esteem which is extremely common among teenage girls who compare themselves to artificially curated images of beautiful models. This in turn takes a huge toll on their self-esteem. Surveys have been taken on Instagram to determine how people feel about body image issues and it was found that most young people experience feelings of depression and anxiety over their own body. More and more people care about instagram views in order to boost their self-esteem. The idea of creating the perfect image of oneself online is unhealthy. 

Less Healthy Activity

Finally, lack of healthy activity also leads to depression. Since most teenagers spend time on social media, they do not get much physical activity which is crucial for feeling like one has accomplished something such as developing new talents and learning new skills.


Depression is a serious issue that has made the lives of young adults and teenagers extremely difficult. As more time is spent on social media, less time is spent actually experiencing life and making a connection with others. Therefore, it is crucial that time spent on social media is monitored and minimized.

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