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According to a recent study, individuals who assessed social media the most often had almost 3 times the risk of depression.
BuzzFeed host Tracy Clayton recently asked her Twitter followers to share a picture they had uploaded to social media -- one where they seemed great, but were really going through a really tough time.
An outpouring of grinning snapshots, accompanied by heart-wrenching behind-the-scenes anecdotes.
Mankaprr Conteh is among the hundreds who responded. She recalls when the picture she shared was shot, two decades back, when she was 22. She had been in the Caribbean.
And I am smiling," Conteh states.
Are you browsing Instagram, you would not have understood that this was among the worst times of her life. "I was originally diagnosed with depression, and then later diagnosed with bipolar 2. It is like hating waking up, such as dreading the morning," Conteh states.
Conteh says it was a challenging trip -- her mom felt helpless and broke down in tears a long time. However there were several moments of respite, one of which was when the picture of Conteh grinning in the water was shot.
If you have spent any time on social networking, you have seen this. Popular culture tells us that folks like posting this to show off.
"People who feel socially isolated could be reaching out on social networking, on some level, to self-medicate," he says. Primack suspects that people that are depressed often post to reach out, to feel as though they are participating in the fun.
Primack has co-authored several studies about how social media influence mental health. He discovered that people who assessed social media the most often had nearly 3 times the risk of depression, compared with individuals who checked less frequently.
However, other research points to the probable advantages of social media. A recent study of mind growth discovered that for 9- and 10-year-old kids, greater social media usage, like scrolling through Instagram and texting, was associated with some positive consequences, such as increased physical activity, less family conflict and fewer sleep issues. Children who had a greater use of overall media, like Web, TV and video games, were more prone to getting worse sleep and more family conflict.
But on social networking,"these are real people, so you feel like this is quite much real life. You know that it's not a Jose Cuervo advertisement, where the folks are getting paid to wear smiles. These are people that you really know."
To put it differently, it is a joy that, albeit closely curated, feels more attainable. If your high school friend is living it up on a yacht, then why are not you?
Can you find out more on social websites as you're depressed, or do you get more depressed as you spend more time there? Primack does not understand, but he suspects it is a cycle. "That reaching out may then only serve to raise the perception of social isolation, which then leads to more social networking usage, etc.," he says.
Why did Conteh post that image of herself smiling on the beach?
"It was like a party of this not crappiness of the moment," she says. It captured how she wished things could really be.
But she gets the irony of going on this stage in which"everybody looks happy. And productive. And accomplished. And beautiful," when back then, she did not feel any of these things.
Nowadays, Conteh is an incoming journalism grad student. Some of her work has focused on mental health, and she says she's thought about how social media influence mental health. She speaks openly about her depression -- offline and online. She tells people,"Hey, this is what I am going through, this is how I am attempting to work with it and deal with it. This is the way I think it's bothering you, and that is how we are going to attempt and move forward with this in your mind."
Primack says we should not dismiss social media as altogether bad. We simply have to know it better. He uses the analogy of nourishment in America -- and how at some point we figured out that our eating wasn't as healthy as you can. Scientists started researching and people started taking an interest in the subject.
The same process will occur with social media, Primack says.