“D” is for Depression and Social Media

Welcome to my 2016 A to Z series on how to establish a meaningful minimum for social media as part of a balanced life. Over the next 26 days, I’ll take a quick look at  some of the pluses and minuses of social media and how to adapt it to your own needs and plans.

IMG_6885.JPGSocial media and depression have a complex relationship.

On the plus side, social media can relieve isolation and provide opportunities for mutual support.

On the other hand, depression has been linked to social media, and the number of hours a person spends on social media is strongly correlated with depression, though it remains unclear if people with depression seek more social media time or if too much social media makes people depressed.

As someone successfully managing depression without medication or therapy (don’t get me wrong, I’ve done those things before and would again as needed), I’m always on the lookout for signs I’ve strayed into a habit which undermines my overall attempts to main good mental health. As I’ve learned more about the way depression and social media interact, I find myself taking steps to move away from social media and for longer periods of time. Just like alcohol, isolation, and negative self-talk, social media is on my watch-list of things which can trip me up.

Here are two key things to consider if you are depressed or have a history of depression and use social media on a regular basis:

  1. Should you decide to reduce your use of social media, take it slowly. Once in place as a means of social support, it can be harmful to quit social media cold turkey. Even moderate reductions (such as one-day social media fasts) are associated with withdrawal symptoms.
  2. Be careful where you engage, opting for places where you know people or where the group norms are polite and supportive. Leave groups and interactions which contribute to a sense of isolation or worthlessness or negativity.

For more information on how depression and social media are linked, check out this short article.

To visit other blogs in the A to Z Challenge, go here:


24 Replies to ““D” is for Depression and Social Media”

    1. You know, the first thing I did was try to follow you back knowing who this is. I’ve missed seeing you around. Thanks for your comments on this short piece. Are you blogging? I would love to follow you.

  1. This is a fascinating correlation. I’m so curious to know what they’ll learn about causation and which comes first, depression or social media. Regardless, I think you’re spot-on about intentional time away from social media, and I think the warning against cold-turkey quitting is a wise one. I’ve definitely found social media to be a balm against loneliness, but I can’t lie and say it doesn’t turn in a giant sucking vortex of time-vanishing from time to time.

    P.S. I love the image! It’s beautiful and moody yet hopeful.

    1. You can thank Morguefile for that image. It had just the right mood. Yes, the more I learn about social media, the more concerned I become. I’m wondering now if my heavy early forays into social media were more closely correlated with a depression related to loss in my life. I found the cold-turkey warning especially interesting when i first read it and it underscores that it is definitely not as harmless as we might hope. That said, when we have the lonelies and can’t go out clubbing or some such thing, it is a quick way to feel a little connection to our fellow man. Thanks for reading and commenting too.

      1. I’d go as far as to say that it’s probably saved my life just a little. But as you’re exploring in your series this month, it’s got some serious downsides, too, which could also be life-affecting.

    2. That image is amazing!

      Social media can be a discouraging means of comparison, especially when the chips are down. On the other hand, I have met some wonderful people through social media.

  2. Thanks for tackling this intricate subject. I love how you were able to succinctly yet effectively address this particular aspect of the link between social media use and depression. I know I can get depressed (not clinically) when I spend too much time with it instead of connecting with real life and people.

  3. I know many who rely on social media for support in managing their mental health. When it works, it is a useful tool. When it doesn’t, it is awful. Your point about groups is so important. It is crucial to surround yourselves on social media with the people you’d gravitate towards in real life for supporting and help. Maintain ties with those who enrich your life or build you up, not those who suck you dry. Get help if you need help distinguishing those.

  4. I commend you for treating depression without always relying on medication. It is a bit scary how and what is prescribed, and we do not always know the future repercussion of all medications. Also, I think we have been trained as a society to think we should always be elated, and not have a range of motions. I strive to be happy myself, but if something bothers me, I do not want to feel the world has fallen off balance. I have noticed when I spend too much time on social media there are discussions one can get sucked into, which can be negative in nature. This is especially true with the discussion of politics. For years I used to enjoy it, but now I am stepping way back. I see people get really worked up about it, and I just do not want to go there anymore. Especially over something I might not be able to control. I am now trying to shift social media to only focus on things I find enriching. Even when it comes to a blog or something on YouTube I feel compelled to comment on, I just will not If I know it is something I feel opinionated about. It can just start a heated discussion, and I feel I have grown weary of those. Some people seem thrived an energized by this on social media and in person, but I am not so much.

    1. You know, I really enjoy your wisdom and perspective and echo what you’ve said about how we perceive emotions. I used to be of the school of thought that I had to hunt them down and eradicate them whereas now I know they enrich me, give me sympathy for others and a greater capacity to relate. I suspect there is something deeply addictive about talking politics and yet it walls reinforces my powerlessness. I really appreciate the attention you give to your comments. Thank you fro reading.

  5. I’ve never really thought about social media and depression having a connection. Loved the fresh perspective – I’ve found I need to unfollow toxic people in my life so I can stay mentally in a healthy place.

    1. Nancy, agreed. It’s such a paradox how much good can be found in social media and how much it can be toxic too. The more I research this topic, the more surprised I am…and then for a vacation I go to blogs like yours which help me think about it in a grander scheme and make a better sense of it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      1. Awww..thank you for your kind words. The more I get involved in the blogging community, the more I love how we shape each other.

  6. This is the second D/Depression post I’ve seen today (strangely, other than a basic topic, they are nothing alike). I wonder if any of the studies that have been done on social media account for age. It would be interesting to me to see if that has anything to do with it, considering how much one hears about online bullying.

    1. Sarah, great question. Yes, there are studies relating age, depression, and social media. I’m covering this in an upcoming topic. There are also studies which look at the impact of online bullying. I love your blog and your post with the Star Wars theme was hilarious. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.

      1. Thanks!

        And thanks for answering my question – I see how my parents use social media (which is to see pics of their grandkids and catch up with friends from earlier times in their lives), versus how I use it (the same thing, except without grandkids, for the most part), versus how people younger than me use it (which seems to be for everything in their lives). I thought that it would be the case that age would play some role, just because of the different uses I see in my everyday life.

  7. I love how that each sides are weighed; pros and cons as there are many. I am sure it can definitely be used as a source of comfort as those in need reach out, feel connected, part of something, etc. I am just as certain at times it can have negative impacts. Thanks for sharing such a great read!

    1. Thank you for reading. I’m really engrossed in this topic. We are lucky to have found good community out there. I try to be balanced, especially as I see how some people react as if I am trying to take this from them when, in fact, I grapple with all the same things about connection. Thanks for commenting.

  8. I’ve been pondering this since I read it earlier. The which comes first question is interesting. It seems unlikely to me that social media would cause depression in otherwise healthy people, but I can see how it could in those prone to depression. For me, when I find I spend too much time on social media, I have to stop and consider whether this is a symptom, and if other factors combine to add up to depression, or if I’m not but just wasting time. Social media is great for connection and also great for avoiding dealing with self. I think those quizzes doctors have that help diagnose depression should ask how much time you spend on the internet.

    Great food for thought, as always.

    1. Debbie, you hit the nail on the head and in fact, some doctors are now asking the question about how much social media time people engage in. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  9. I love defending myself about how I use social media and my purposes for doing so…making connections, encouraging others, sending birthday greetings and congratulations, checking on family members. Do I spend too much time there? Yes. Do I feel better and am I more productive when I restrict my time there? Yes and yes.

    That said, Facebook and Happier were lifelines for me when my world fell apart a couple years ago. I am open to more information about this fascinating topic.

    1. Totally agree with you. These tools are lifelines at times and there’s no shame in that anymore than there is shame in needing counseling or treatment when mental health issues arise (which is a step beyond what you mention and yet which is also related.) Knowing how and where these tools can be effective is vital, in much the same way that Oxycodone is vital after a surgery but can be problematic with long term use. I would love to interview you sometime about how you change your mix of these things as I know you are something of a “mix master” when it comes to life balance. Thanks for reading and commenting too.

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