Social Media and Why It’s Making Your Brain Oh-So Sad

Social Media and Why It’s Making Your Brain Oh-So Sad | Malibu Health Labs

We are always surprised when someone tells us that they don't have a Facebook account. Usually, the sharing of such news is followed closely by a head tilt and a concerned “why not?” 

It’s becoming more and more rare to bump into someone who does not have a presence on social media. Some workplaces even require their employees to have accounts for purposes such as communication and networking. It's convenient for work and convenient for our personal lives... 

...but it's also addicting.

 According to the Pew Research Center, in 2016 almost 70% of Americans had asocial media account, The heavy hitters being Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Facebook. This means that in 2016, only 30% of the entire US population was not signed up to any form of social media. Of that slice, less than 13% were still living completely internet free

For those of us who check our social pages multiple times per week, if not several times per day, if not every hour --describing how emotional just 5 minutes of scrolling through our newsfeeds can be is not a strange concept to grasp. 

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Scrolling

Those highs and lows that you feel? Be it happiness for your friends (an engagement announcement), or jealousy for your friends (again, an engagement announcement) --that’s all taking a toll on your brain. And that toll is pushing your brain towards depression. 

A 2016 study was done to monitor the emotional spikes of social media addicted individuals versus those who stayed off social platforms altogether. What they found sounds about right: those that spent more time on social media showed increased odds of depression. 

According to Lui yi Lin, one of the conductors of the study, those who check their newsfeeds the most often felt negative emotions regularly. Those repeated exposures to what their friends were up to led to downward emotional spikes that sent scrollers into a pattern that was hard to get out of.

“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” said Lin. “Engaging in activities of little meaning on social media may [also] give a feeling of ‘time wasted’ that negatively influences mood.” 

What that means is that past seeing how well your friends may be doing and comparing their lives to yours, you may feel self-conscious about your cyber-stalking and realize that you have just wasted a huge chunk of your day studying how much better they are doing and now feel like you are doing even less with your life --a spiral that is hard to stop. 

Many people who feel depressed after being on social media are often already depressed, reports the study. Combine a preexisting sadness with a bombardment of perfectly posed pics from your ‘friends’’ posts, and it will only exacerbate the negative thoughts. 

"It may be that people who already are depressed are turning to social media to fill a void" states Lin. Reasons for turning to social media to fill the time vary from person to person, but unless scrollers are careful, it may quickly become a breeding ground for personal negativity that may eventually snowball into a level of depression or a  depression-like mood. 

#FOMO, indeed.



Sources Cited: 
Anderson, M., et al. "13% Of Americans Don’T Use The Internet. Who Are They?." Pew Research Center. 2016. 
"Social Media Fact Sheet." Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. 2017.


Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with questions regarding a medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read here. This article is for general information only.


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