New York: Using a couple of social media platforms may be all right, but being in the network of a broader range of social media outlets may put you at an increased risk of depression and anxiety, warns a new study.
The findings suggest that compared with the total time spent on social media, use of multiple platforms is more strongly associated with depression and anxiety among young adults.
The researchers found that people who report using seven to 11 social media platforms had more than three times the risk of depression and anxiety than their peers who use zero to two platforms, even after adjusting for the total time spent on social media overall.
“This association is strong enough that clinicians could consider asking their patients with depression and anxiety about multiple platform use and counseling them that this use may be related to their symptoms,” said lead author Brian Primack from University of Pittsburgh Centre for Research on Media, Technology and Health in the US.
For the study, the researchers sampled 1,787 US adults between ages 19 to 32, using an established depression assessment tool and questionnaires to determine social media use.
The questionnaires asked about the 11 most popular social media platforms at the time: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.
Participants who used seven to 11 platforms had 3.1 times the odds of reporting higher levels of depressive symptoms than their counterparts who used zero to two platforms, said the study published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour.
Those who used the most platforms had 3.3 times the odds of high levels of anxiety symptoms than their peers who used the least number of platforms.
The researchers believe several factors may influence why multi-platform social media use may drive depression and anxiety:
Multitasking, as would happen when switching between platforms, is known to be related to poor cognitive and mental health outcomes.
The distinct set of unwritten rules, cultural assumptions and idiosyncrasies of each platform are increasingly difficult to navigate when the number of platforms used rises, which could lead to negative mood and emotions.
Moreover, there is more opportunity to commit a social media faux pas when using multiple platforms, which can lead to repeated embarrassments.
“It may be that people who suffer from symptoms of depression or anxiety, or both, tend to subsequently use a broader range of social media outlets. For example, they may be searching out multiple avenues for a setting that feels comfortable and accepting,” Primack said.
“However, it could also be that trying to maintain a presence on multiple platforms may actually lead to depression and anxiety. More research will be needed to tease that apart,” Primack noted.