The study, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, showed that excessive use of social media including Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram is linked to depression and loneliness.
For the study, the researchers recruited 143 undergraduate students for two different trials, one in the spring and one in the fall. Each subject had to have a Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat account, plus an iPhone.
They monitored the students for a week to get a baseline reading of their social media use and gave them questionnaires that assessed their well-being according to seven different factors: social support, fear of missing out, loneliness, autonomy and self-acceptance, anxiety, depression, and self-esteem.
They collected objective usage data automatically tracked by iPhones for active apps. Next, the participants were randomly assigned to a control group, which had users maintain their typical social-media behavior, or an experimental group that limited time on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram to 10 minutes per platform per day.
Participants also shared iPhone battery screenshots for the next three weeks to give the researchers weekly tallies for each individual.
The results showed that using less social media than you normally would lead to a significant decrease in both depression and loneliness.
However, young people aged between 18 to 22 should not stop using social media altogether, suggested the findings.
“Because these tools are here to stay, it is incumbent on society to figure out how to use them in a way that limits damaging effects,” Hunt noted.