The new study identified that social media can lead to increased stress and depression in its users. It is no less than a secondary trauma in addition to the ongoing pandemic.
Most people find it hard to stop checking their phones every now and then. Some people find it an internet addiction while others believe it is just a try to be ‘updated’ on the current information.
The researchers from the Penn State and Jinan University collaborated to find out how using social media excessively is involved in making people more stressed and some of them are even diagnosed with depression.
Bu Zhong from the Penn State says that this study found that social media has a rewarding role for it being a source of information, support, and knowledge especially related to the current pandemic. But what most people fail to understand is that sticking to their phones is not a healthy habit. Excessively checking social media end up causing mental health issues which may worsen the condition and make it hard to make it through the pandemic, unaffected.
The complete study findings are now published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
This study investigated 320 people living from urban areas of the Wuhan city of China. This is the same place where the coronavirus pandemic reportedly originated. Earlier this year, in the month of February, these participants filled out an online survey collecting information on how social media mainly WeChat has helped them to spread the information. WeChat is probably the most famous and used phone app which is used by millions of people to transmit messages.
The study team took help from an instrument to measure Facebook addiction in people who also use WeChat. Using this 5-point scale, the team was able to collect data from the study participants and their views on WeChat on how has it helped to spread information, supportive or emotional strength. In addition to this, this survey also analyzed changes in these participants’ behavior which can be an outcome of social media use.
Some of the participants shared that they used WeChat to know the latest news regarding COVID-19 especially relating to disease management. They also reported that if were not clear on something, they tried to find answers through the WeChat app. Some participants shared that WeChat has helped them in their emotional wellbeing as it made them feel less lonely during the pandemic. On the question of guidelines, they shared that WeChat has contributed to increased support especially during the time of the pandemic.
Furthermore, the survey report also explained that the behavior of the participants towards health management has been changed after their use of WeChat. They used a “21-item Depression Anxiety Stress Scale” to analyze the levels of stress in these participants. The respondents were questioned about what would they feel in certain situations and their emotional response to certain tricky questions for example coronavirus spread.
Conclusively, the researchers stated that these participants received informative support from others using the WeChat phone app but a lesser amount of emotional support. Probably it explains the role of excessive social media use and depression.
They also reported that participants changed their strategies and behavior after this information especially regarding COVID-19 made to them. They started to follow hand washing and hygiene practices more than before.