Description: Think of a number of examples of “new stuff” the children and young adults are dealing with today that were part of the developmental experiences of their parents and grandparents. This would include things like social media and the Internet in general. Is a growing tide of research beginning to examine the effects of this “new stuff” on the development of adolescents and young adults and one needs to be careful about taking individual studies as being in anyway definitive of the nature of the relationships between this “new stuff” and individual health development and well-being. The study discussed in the article linked below is a good example. Before you read it can you come up with a hypothesis about why time spent on social media and symptoms of clinical depression might be related? Read the article and then think hard about the claims that it’s making.
Source: Could Lots Of Time Spent On Social Media Be Tied To Depression? Alan Moses, Health Day, U.S. News & World Report.
Date: March 24, 2016
Photo Credit: U.S. News & World Report
So what you come up with in the way of hypotheses before reading the article? The research described is a classic example of a correlational study. It shows a link between social media use and signs and symptoms of depression with people showing more depressive symptoms if they are more actively engaged in social media. Three possibilities exist for why this correlation may have been observed. It could be that social media use makes you depressed, or it could be that if you depressed you somehow see a need to become more involved in social media, or a third possibility is that both social media use and depression are caused by some other factor or factors. The challenge in designing this kind of research is to find ways to look at what some of those possible causal directions might be so that the reader is not left wondering at the end of the study what causes what. No definitive solutions are available within correlational studies but certain hypotheses can be addressed in ways that can at least suggest specific future research that might be done to clarify the matter. So what sort of research do you think is needed now in relation to this question of the relationship between social media use and depression?
Questions for Discussion:
- What is the relationship to social media use of depression as observed in the research study reported in the linked article?
- What possible causal relationships might exist between depression and social media? What sort of factors should also be considered if we do understand this relationship more clearly?
- What sorts of studies need to be done now in order to clarify the nature of this relationship?
References (Read Further):
Lin, L. Y., Sidani, J. E., Shensa, A., Radovic, A., Miller, E., Colditz, J. B., … & Primack, B. A. (2016). Association Between Social Media Use And Depression Among Us Young Adults. Depression and anxiety.
Shensa, A., Sidani, J. E., yi Lin, L., Bowman, N. D., & Primack, B. A. (2015). Social Media Use and Perceived Emotional Support Among US Young Adults. Journal of community health, 1-9.