Possible link between Internet addiction and depression
Luke Pryor Collegio Reporter
WThe American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released studies about the effects of social media on mental health, potentially linking Facebook and other social media sites with depression in some teens.
The term “Facebook depression” was coined in the studies led by Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, a pediatrician and lead author of recent AAP social media guidelines, saying in the study that it is a condition that could affect teens who obsess over the site who are also predisposed to mental health issues.
David Hurford, professor and chair of the PSU Psychology Department, reviewed the studies and said that many of them were over social media in general, not necessarily Facebook. Hurford said that Catriona Morrison from the University of Leeds conducted one of the studies pertaining to Internet Addiction (IA) where she had 1,319 participants respond to three measures: the Internet Addiction Test (IA), the Internet Function questionnaire and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI).
“She was really only interested in the 18 (1.2 percent) of the 1,319 who indicated that they had Internet addiction,” Hurford said. “Of the 18 who had Internet addiction, not surprisingly, they had higher, more depressed scores on the BDI.”
However, Hurford says that although those with Internet addiction had a higher BDI score, the small sample size casts doubt on the connection.
“The study was correlational and tells nothing of the direction of the relationship,” Hurford said. “For example, it could very easily be that depressed people are more likely to use the Internet to try to make themselves feel better.”
Rikki Roach, undeclared freshman, says that although she had not heard of the study, she spends a large amount of time on Facebook and her mood is typically unaffected by the site.
“I wouldn’t say I get depressed by seeing stuff on Facebook,” Roach said. “But some things that people post on Facebook annoy me.”
Zac Snow, senior in biology, says that Facebook really only affects his mood positively, by looking at old pictures and interacting with his friends, and this phenomenon is probably more frequent in people of high school or junior high age.
“At a certain level of maturity, Facebook becomes more superficial,” Snow said. “It becomes more of a way to stay in contact with friends rather than a popularity contest, which is highly essential for a majority of kids.”
However, considering the bulk of the studies were related to teens, Snow says that people of this age group could likely be affected negatively by Facebook, especially if they have previous symptoms of depression.
“It begins in the classroom or social setting,” Snow said. “I see Facebook as merely an extension for bullying or receiving that ‘left out’ feeling. The ‘popular’ kids in the classroom will be almost immune to the effects while the kids that aren’t as popular are at the mercy of another social aspect of their life.”
Roach also says she could see instances where Facebook could negatively affect a person’s mood.
“I could see, if you suffer from depression, how people posting things about hanging out or how their weekend was and you not getting involved in any of the fun stuff people are talking about could change your mood and make you depressed,” Roach said.