Time spent on social media was not associated with negative mental health outcomes among young adults; however, posting vague yet alarming information on social media was associated with suicidal ideation.
“Because of this growing presence of social media in young people’s lives, some commenters have expressed concern about potential adverse effects,” Chloe Berryman, of University of Central Florida, and colleagues wrote. “Could reliance on social media for social interactions pejoratively influence real-life social contacts, leading to isolation and loneliness? Could social media use isolate people from close contact and communication with others, thereby decreasing empathy? And could overuse of social media lead to larger problems with mental health including suicidal ideation?”
To assess associations between social media use and negative mental health outcomes, researchers administered questionnaires to 467 young adults with a mean age of 19.66 years. Study participants reported time spent using social media, importance of social media in their lives and tendency to engage in vaguebooking, defined by researchers as “posting unclear but alarming posts to get attention.”
Social media use was not predictive of poorer mental health functioning. However, vaguebooking was predictive of loneliness and suicidal ideation.
Time spent online and social media importance were not associated with mental health outcomes.
Social desirability was consistently associated with lower negative symptoms.
Social support was a consistent protective factor for all negative outcomes, including suicidal thoughts.
Reporting parent/child conflict predicted mental health symptoms, suicidal thoughts and loneliness.
“Overall, results from this study suggest that, with the exception of vaguebooking, concerns regarding social media use may be misplaced,” Berryman said in a press release. “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.” – by Amanda Oldt
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.