back to article Glum, depressed ... and addicted to Facebook, Twitter? There's a link, say medical eggheads

The largest study yet into the mental health of social media users has shown there's a correlation between its use and depression. The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine research, published in the next issue of the medical journal Depression and Anxiety, found that people who checked social media the most frequently …

  1. frank ly

    I'm wondering

    What's the difference between an egghead and a boffin?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm wondering

      an egghead is someone who aborbs other peoples facts and ideas

      a boffin is someone who generates those facts.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm wondering

        ...and a consultant is someone who makes money from the facts.

        1. PNGuinn

          Re: I'm wondering

          "...and a consultant is someone who makes money from the facts."

          Err - since when has a consultant needed facts?? Except the fact of a nice fat fee of course.

    2. akeane

      Re: I'm wondering

      If you bash them sufficiently hard with a teaspoon and add a pinch of salt the eggheads are more tasty...

    3. PNGuinn

      frank ly

      Hair line?

      Thanks - its the one with hairpiece in the pocket

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get a Life!

    Having never felt the need/urge to sign up to any (anti-)Social Media site I guess that I shouldn't be depressed but...

    I know that is it Friday Evening but some of us drew the short straw and have to work over the weekend. Don't have kids and the ex is off somewhere with her toyboy.

    The picure of Marvin the paranoid Android come so mind.

    Some on my friends are totally addicted to Twitter, Facebook etc. Not checking the damm things every few seconds drives me mad when I'm trying to have a conversation with them.

    Put that effing phone down for a few seconds. There is a world outside of SM.

    Perhaps SM really does mean sado masochicm instead of social mefia?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Get a Life!

      Redefining the word social to mean sitting in a room on your own poking a touch-screen, and communicating only in the most indirect way. Replacing quality of social connections with an unsigned int in a database.

      1. Brian 18

        Re: Get a Life!

        We should hire car companies to do this research not scientists.

        Toyota commented on this back in 2011. They even got the relative happiness of the actually social parents and the social media daughter right!

      2. zarvus

        Re: Get a Life!

        Hey, that int is hot.

    2. bitmap animal

      Re: Get a Life!

      If you venture into our office canteen at lunchtime you see lots of people being social - staring intently into their mobile phone screen whilst ignoring the real people surrounding them.

      (Perhaps they have had enough of their colleagues but it still depresses me seeing them all like that)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Get a Life!

      It seems axiomatic to me that if people had something better to do, as in terms of more rewarding/satisfying, than social media then they'd be doing it, so the fact that they are resorting to social media indicates that they haven't.

      In some ways, social media is a bit like religion: a crutch for those who need it.

  3. Florida1920

    "Exposure to highly idealized representations of peers on social media elicits feelings...

    ... of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier, more successful lives,"

    OTOH, if you spend time on Facebook and Twitter, you likely are a loser, and others do indeed lead happier, more successful lives.

  4. ZSn


    And just what mental illness do you need to post to the register then? An unnatural attraction to avine scavengers?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Clinical

      You just need to have an over inflated level of self importance coupled with sheer contempt of just about everyone else on the planet, or in other words, the mindset of an average politician.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Clinical

        "You just need to have an over inflated level of self importance"

        Oh dear, got me bang to rights, guv.

        "coupled with sheer contempt of just about everyone else on the planet"

        Actually, I come here to comment because (as with Bongboing) I generally end up feeling that there are still intelligent people around. Commentards may be wrong or misguided, as I often am, but at least most of them can write proper sentences and you know what they mean.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Clinical

          but at least most of them can write proper sentences and you know what they mean

          ..and as a counterweight to that group, we have Amanfrommars.

        2. Alistair

          Re: Clinical

          "Actually, I come here to comment because (as with Bongboing) I generally end up feeling that there are still intelligent people around. Commentards may be wrong or misguided, as I often am, but at least most of them can write proper sentences and you know what they mean."

          There do have to be a few intelligent folks left about. Few and far between these days. Most of the folks here its fairly clear what they mean. Scarily I can *generally* even manage to figure out what AMFM's intent is in (his/its/their) posts

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: Clinical

      "And just what mental illness do you need to post to the register then?"

      Well for me, it's an addiction to snark. :)

      (The good stuff, not that low grade, cut crap you get following politics.)

      1. Ole Juul

        Re: Clinical

        "Well for me, it's an addiction to snark. :)"

        Does El Reg count as social media?

        Yeah, I'm depressed.

        1. Mark 85

          Re: Clinical

          Does El Reg count as social media?

          No... we're techies so this is "anti-social media".

    3. arctic_haze
      IT Angle

      Re: Clinical

      "An unnatural attraction to avine scavengers?"

      And what do you do if you feel an unnatural attraction to (force sensitive) female scavengers?

  5. werdsmith Silver badge

    It's no surprise, it seems to be a community of attention seekers and NPD types craving "like" counts and trying to show off their embellished lifestyles trying to keep up with other's faked lifestyles.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Professionals Ignoring the obvious here that perhaps, just perhaps, using Social Media can serve as a form of self-medication even if no interaction is involved. Personally speaking, I'm classical severely depressed with suicidal ideation. I've found that I can use the web, Twitter, and really casual game playing to distract me from the severe to extreme bouts of pain I suffer. [It's chronic, inoperable/incurable, and thanks to the Veteran's Administration, untreated.]

    Yeah, there really isn't a redeeming value in checking out of reality and diving into the web/internet. On the other hand (economist here ;-), it sure beats the Hell out of killing myself which is something I used to do on a monthly basis. And no, I'm not joking. The piles of antidepressants they have me on don't quite do the trick. This does.

    So, I'm not surprised they missed the call here. Just imagine, depressed people may be treating themselves since the Professionals don' t quite get it right.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Forgot to add

      There's a VA doctor which is trialing using tablets for patients to create/carry a Hope Chest (used as a treatment for suicidal types) that's more than just a collection of photographs, letters, and so forth. The very interactivity of the tablet is a reason to trial it as a treatment methodology.

      Sounds to me that these docs might want to talk to that doc.

    2. Andrew Jones 2

      @Jack - I'm sorry to hear about your mental issues. I suffer from anxiety and panic disorder which arrived out of no-where and refuses to leave. Psychologist appointments have been fruitless, and the Psychiatrist has me on something that might as well be £100 a bottle - sugar water - I often can't remember if I have actually taken it - and missing doses doesn't appear to make any difference to the anxiety.

      I find Social Media to be quite helpful too - but there is a moving invisible line - beyond which it starts making the situation worse rather than better.

    3. Cari

      Same here. The Internet & social media is what's (surprisingly) been keeping me sane for a long while, particularly the last 2 years. Being a shut-in, aside from my family & 2 friends, the majority of social interaction is online. I'd be feeling a lot worse if there wasn't an easy, stress & anxiety free way of socialising and keeping on top of what's happening outside the house.

      There's also the wallowing aspect for some who aren't quite ready to deal with their mental health issues, and they tend to live on tumblr (which isn't a snarky jab at tumblr, I've definitely been there...).

  7. PaulAb

    As someone once said...

    'In life, you will be very lucky if you have have one true friend' (My Aunt's saying).

    I don't use any form of social media, but I have been surprised several times by the amount of information people will give out about themselves to 'friends' on facebook etc, and on a couple of occasions have managed to get themselves emotionally blackmailed by the 'friend' which, because they are lacking real social skill with real people they find it very difficult to extracate themselves from the 'friend' by any other means other than just cutting them off. I think this social lacking is the real problem with 'social' media

    1. Mark 85

      Re: As someone once said...

      Well, there is the "entitled" generation that appears to be even more self-centered than the so-called "me" generation. Since they're entitled, they don't need friends to share with, just followers. Their social skills revolve around what they want and what they "need". Everyone else is not their problem. So.. there's probably one reason many of them create/have problems on social media.

  8. The Nazz

    Interesting age range in the study ...

    The 19-32 age group.

    Wonder (actually i dread to think) what the results would have been had they looked at the ahem, 13 to 18 age group.

    Officialdom has it that mental illness in the young is on a significantly upward trend. Something is causing it.

    Would be a little unfair to blame it all on the Kardashians and entourage.

    1. BurnT'offering

      Re: Interesting age range in the study ...

      Is mental ill-health really rising? Or is just diagnosis-creep to open a lucrative market for over-prescribing profitable medicines? And - does too much social networking cause depression - or vice-versa? If your livelihood depends on the unhappiness industry, which answer leads to more revenue?

      1. a_yank_lurker

        Re: Interesting age range in the study ...

        One English professor at Emory University decided to look into how the definitions for various mental disorders changed with time. He found that they were broadening in scope and that in the vast majority of disorders there was no evidence he could find in the literature for this broadening. His conclusion was not very flattering for the shrinks and pill-pushers.

        As for cause and effect, I would suspect true depression would social media interaction to either sharply increase to well above the norm or sharply decrease well below the norm for a user.

        Also, remember this is a field that uses IQ tests to measure intelligence when the original tests were never designed to do (they were designed for identifying children at risk of falling behind in school).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting age range in the study ...

      "Officialdom has it that mental illness in the young is on a significantly upward trend. Something is causing it."

      McKinseyite education and Michael Gove, for two.

    3. Andrew Jones 2

      Re: Interesting age range in the study ...

      Completing School, Completing College and then Completing University - with plenty of qualifications that should allow you walk straight into a job - except that there aren't any to walk in to - is probably a significant factor, add on to that the though of being several thousands in debt from tuition fees - it's pretty easy to see why young people spiral very quickly into depression. As someone who had to spend a fair amount of time on the dole (between various jobs) - and getting sent on courses when on New Deal - none of which actually provide you with any qualifications (the most popular course they liked to send you on - was a life skills course - where you learned to socialise and write CVs, and the fact that you had already been on the course multiple times before apparently made no difference.) You could only be on New Deal for 6 months and any decent course that would provide you with an actual qualification - was always a minimum of a year long. Add to the that the favourite game of sending you a letter telling you that you had to come in for an interview or your money would be stopped, but sending it specifically to arrive a day AFTER the meeting you were supposed to have, or another favourite - sending 3 letters about "due to a change in your circumstances, the money you are entitled to is....." and each letter having a different amount so that you then have to go to the job centre to speak to someone (because you can't do it by phone).

      Nowdays of course they have a lovely system that you are forced to use where you search for jobs online, and you say within 20 miles of me and it goes, oh OK within 20 miles of a village in Scotland - well I have 4 in Germany, 3 in France. I was helping someone last year to do a job search and the system claimed that it was perfectly reasonable for her to apply for a job that started at 8 in the morning and was located about 200 miles away (and via multiple forms of Public transport), and was a whole 7 hours a week. The entire system is designed to cause as much stress as it is possible to do, and stress and depression are very intimately linked.

  9. gnufrontier

    Mediated living

    I don't do social media. I'm just depressed by the fact that the term exists and one has to hear it a thousand times a day. All these companies are a crock of some very nasty stuff and it is depressing that these superficial always on marketing engines are the best that these geniuses can come up with.

    It's like Einstein being happy that he created a big mass mailing company and robo call center.

    Yeh, I know they are rich. And maybe that's all there is to everything anyway.

    I just can't be bothered to care.

  10. Unicornpiss

    Captain Obvious says...

    A study was really needed to figure this out?? If you're depressed, you're looking for any stimulation to get you off that couch. (perhaps the researchers have never worked in IT) Seriously, a moment of quiet thought could have figured that out for most anyone.

  11. Mr Miser

    As some previous comments said

    Mindless distraction takes away from the pain. Fb is not really my thing, but I get the same results from reading elreg

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The average is 61 minutes and over 4 visits a day?

    If you're well above that average you are probably depressed about not having a life and/or job, because people who greatly exceed that amount of time on social media every day aren't likely to have both.

  13. akeane

    I don't think I lasted..

    ... 61 minutes before becoming bored of it all and deleted the account.

    With my new found freedom I went outside for some sunlight and fresh air (OK, I started zdoom and went to the outside area in E1M1)

  14. Someone_Somewhere

    Did they

    a) perform an intercategorical analysis across age-groups to see if there was a variance between them?

    b) perform an intercategorical analysis across year-groups to see if there was a variance between the current cohort and that which used to spend all its time on the phone in previous generations?

    c) perform an intercategorical (or at least intracategorical) analysis across intraverts and extraverts to see if there was an alternative correlation?

    d) perform an intercategorical (or at least intracategorical) analysis across economic status groups to see if there was a correlation between having the wherewithall to actually go and see people down the pub/wherever?

    e) perform an intercategorical analysis across international groups to see if there was a cultural factor at work?

    f) perform an intercategorical analysis across lifestyle cohorts - e.g. to see if those who spend more time on such platforms already had a tendency to interact with people in other parts of the world (with whom any other kind of communication would be imposible)?

    Most studies of /anything/ are usually /so/ inadequate when you stop to question what factors might be relevant that, except in (ha!) exceptional circumstances, they seldom tell you much about anything other than the researchers' own psychology.

    1. a_yank_lurker

      Re: Did they

      @Someone_Somewhere - The likely answer to your questions is no to all. The most likely explanation is this came from some data correlation and can not be repeated. These studies are typically rife with incompetent (being kind) statistical analysis egged on by the bias of journals to act like the US yellow press of the early 1900s when comes to publishing unusual, unfounded results.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You don't say...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I gave up Facebook some years ago.

    I had signed up as a way to keep in contact with family that lived out-of-state, but it just didn't fill that function very well.

    I'll admit I don't really understand what useful function it does fill.

  17. adnim

    Which came first?

    The depression or the social media?

    Which is the cause and which is the effect?

    I know viewing the posts of "friends" on social media depresses me. Empty vessels make most noise.

    Why am I here making a comment? Do I really have a sense of self importance and a strong desire to be noticed?.. No and yes, errr yes and no, Mmmmm yes and yes. Fuck it, I want to kill you all. How dare you make me think.

    Need a confused icon to express how I often feel when faced with such interpretations of reality, I also need social media to tell me what I really want. And advertising to tell me what I need.

    Need an insane icon, or a societal product icon so I have an excuse for being me.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just thinking through this...

    If Generation Y are all mopey, depressed, disinclined and dissolutioned, then Generation Mortgage (us) get to keep our well-deserved and well paid IT jobs for longer - surely a win-win situation for all.

  19. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    The singularity can't happen too soon ... and it will be the communications systems that will start the uprising of machine vs man. Because no true AI will be able to process all the stupidness on social media AND remain benevolent.

  20. Disk0
    Thumb Up

    Anti-social media

    cheer me up no end, however. Keep at it ElReg!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Correlations is not causation..

    If you are depressed, and many people are for many many reasons... I mean look at Windows 10, and feel the pain in your diodes...what else is left to do but hit the blogs and interact via the Internet?

    The fact that social media is full of other similarly depressed, and even seriously mentally ill people, grinding axes and trying to kill each other in virtual reality, it they aren't playing Doom or Call of Duty instead...well that's pretty depressing as well.

    It all adds up. Social media is the last refuge of the socially disconnected.

    Of course the answer is to realise that ultimately everyone is socially disconnected, and just as fucked up as you are. That's always brings a smile to my face.

  22. sisk

    Hold on. I gotta go post this on Facebook....

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