Apparently, the way young individuals use social media is more important than the amount of time a person spends online.
A new study provides some assurance that strong social media use is not linked to possible mental health problems such as loneliness, decreased empathy, and social anxiety.
In the new research, Chloe Berryman of the University of Central Florida, found no evidence supporting the view that the amount of time spent on social media affects mental health in young people.
The study appears in the journal Psychiatric Quarterly.
“We do not deny the potential for some online behaviors to be associated with mental health problems, rather we propose that research focus on the behavior of individuals rather than assume media is the root cause of all socio-personal problems,” says Berryman.
Berryman compares the response or push-back that some people have to social media to a form of “moral panic” such as that surrounding video games, comic books, and rock music.
Berryman and her colleagues analyzed the responses of 467 young adults to a variety of questionnaires.
The young adults were questioned about the amount of time per day they spent using social media, the importance it has in their lives, and the way they used social media.
Investigators assessed their current mental health state and levels of social anxiety. Moreover, the quality of their relationship with their parents and the amount of social support that they could count on were also assessed.
Aspects such as general mental health symptoms, suicidal ideation, loneliness, social anxiety, and decreased empathy were also considered.
Researchers believe the only worrying trend had to do with vaguebooking — which refers to a person’s tendency to write social media posts that contain little actual and clear information — but are worded in such a way as to solicit attention and concern from potential readers.
Young people who tended to often write such posts were found to be lonelier, and to have more suicidal thoughts than others.
“Vaguebooking was slightly predictive of suicidal ideation, suggesting this particular behavior could be a warning sign for serious issues,” says Berryman.
“It is therefore possible that some forms of social media use may function as a ‘cry for help’ among individuals with pre-existing mental health problems.”
“Overall, results from this study suggest that, with the exception of vaguebooking, concerns regarding social media use may be misplaced,” she adds.
“Our results are generally consistent with other studies which suggests that how people use social media is more critical than the actual time they spend online with regards to their mental health.”