From the Tribune News Service
According to a paper in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology’s December issue,
tightening Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat use can lower loneliness and depression.
University of Penn. psychologist Melissa Hunt led the study, which surveyed 143 students.
The study did not ask students to abstain from social media. The researchers explained this
choice in the paper, noting, “It is unrealistic to expect young people to forgo this information
stream entirely.” Rather, the students who were cutting their screen time kept to 10 minutes on
Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat each day — no more than a half-hour on all platforms
The social media diets didn’t have much of an influence on anxiety or self-acceptance, but after three weeks, students who limited their time on the apps scored lower on the UCLA Loneliness Scale. For students with depression, symptoms declined by the end.
A Cigna study released this year found that 41 percent of people in the Philadelphia area — and
nearly half of Americans — are experiencing loneliness. That research found that the younger
generations were the loneliest. Hunt explained: “The extent to which young people are using
social media can interfere with time spent on activities that can more genuinely foster selfesteem,
like getting work done, or true intimacy, or hanging with your friends in the real world.”
The trouble, she explained, is that many social media users curate what they post and leave the
rough times (and rough selfies) out. People may share bad experiences in Reddit communities,
while Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat feeds might read more like only best moments. In
real intimacy, she noted, the ups and downs are expressed in the same space. On social
media, Hunt observed, “you don’t get that healthy mix that you need in growing healthy
relationships, with both the good and the bad.”
For depression and loneliness, though, the results suggest that “awareness alone is not
sufficient,” Hunt said. Social media diets can make a particular impact in this regard because
the platforms, she explained, give “the illusion of connectedness and not true connectedness.”