Social media can cause depression but can cure it, too
There’s this unsung belief that society’s declining attention span, as well as the young generation’s unstable behavior, can be blamed on social media. Even the number of people suffering from depression, is all because of social media, too. In fact, it reportedly increased this year as social media usage became more prevalent.
According to a study from the University of Houston and Palo Alto University, what made the likes of Facebook and Instagram a powerful inducer of depression is their capability to present a “social comparison.” Photos and statuses can alter a viewer’s thinking and convince people that they should also enjoy what other people have, and the failure to satisfy this newfound personal need could lead to jealousy, envy, and self-pity, the core aspects of depression.
“It doesn’t mean Facebook causes depression, but that depressed feelings and lots of time on Facebook and comparing oneself to others tend to go hand in hand,” remarked study author Mai-Ly Steers. She also pinpointed that people who spend more time on social networks are most likely the depressed ones, regardless if they compared themselves to other people “positively,” “negatively,” or “neutrally.”
However, social media sites could also be the one to counter the menacing mental illness. Dr. Melinda Ring, medical director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, wrote that her son, who has had anxious and depressive thoughts, has beaten the illness through Instagram accounts focused on anti-depression. “[My son] then shifted his own Instagram account to be a positive support to others, and he quickly developed more than 6,000 followers, reinforcing that his message of hope and support was needed and appreciated,” Ring wrote on CNN.
It was new to her, since she never thought that more people are now using social media to share their stories, struggles, and failures simply to voice them out. Social media, as she suggested, has become a digital counterpart of real-life interaction, an essential facet of life that most depressed people find difficult to work out, understand, and obtain.
Humane digital era
Ruby Wax, founder of Black Dog Tribe, an online community that encourages people to talk about their depression, says that playing the role of an online empathizer is harder than doing it face-to-face. However, social media’s reach is wider than that of setting up a physical office or organization for such. People find it easier to share their stories online once they see the sincerity of the members, more importantly, the organizers—something that Wax effortlessly delivered.
Wax started Black Dog Tribe with herself by publicly sharing her struggles with the illness, an experience that helped her realize that depression can be beaten. “My role, as I see it, is to empathise, share information in a non-judgmental way, share options, and encourage feelings of autonomy, optimism, and competence. Hope is something many people with depression lack, along with motivation – but both of these things can be increased over time via skillful conversation,” she told The Guardian.
However, tech brands and mobile platform investors are now seeing the efficacy of bringing the counseling niche to the digital realm. Whisper, a confessional app, has attracted millions of mobile users for its capability to encourage people suffering from different marital and domestic problems and tell them there is a way out and chance to start anew.
DoSomething.org’s Crisis Text Line, on the other hand, has human crisis counselors who guide and help teenagers to battle anxiety, suicidal tendencies and depression. The likes of 5BARz International (OTCQB: BARZ), has always been vocal that among its reasons why it wants faster Internet connection since dismal access to the Web can cause stress, anxiety, and loneliness, which then could lead to more severe predicaments like depression.
Moving towards mobile app help
Just recently, researchers at MIT have developed Panoply, a peer-to-peer app that utilizes an emotional regulation strategy called cognitive reappraisal to provide 24-hour support depressed mobile consumers.
Panoply works by teaching users a therapeutic tool, called cognitive reappraisal, which tries to get people to look at a problematic situation from different perspectives,” said Kevin McSpadden of Time Magazine. “Then they write what is causing the problem and their reaction. The ‘crowd’ then responds by offering a contrasting outlook. Comments are vetted to ensure the original poster is not abused.”
According to researcher and founder Richard Morris, Panoply is built for people suffering from depression and various mental health issues. The app will help people through its “crowdsourced well-being,” which readers could read as another way of looking at a somewhat depressing occurrence.
“It was so amazing to have this crowd of people,” he told Wired. “It’s just a marvel of crowdsourced intelligence. It’s really about trying to readjust your thinking to bring better health.”
Researchers from the University of North Carolina will use app and social media techniques to build a new mobile app that will encourage women suffering from postpartum depression to have their DNA checked. The research group’s goal is to collect over 100,000 DNA samples to be compared to women who aren’t suffering from the illness. The result of which could help find a cure to postpartum depression.
“From a genetic standpoint, this is the right time biologically to do this,” said Dr. Patrick F. Sullivan, director of the University of North Carolina’s Center for Psychiatric Genomics. He suggested that it’s high-time to find ways of curing this illness, as the number of women suffering from it is growing.
Indeed, Facebook, Instagram, and other online diary-like websites could alter one’s thinking, perspective, and belief. But times are quickly changing. There are now people and organizations willing to use the same tool to give others hope, support, or to make them feel that there’s somebody out there willing to listen. In today’s modern age, an online community can save lives.