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Depression and Social Media Research Paper

Pages:8 (2464 words)



Topic:Social Media

Document Type:Research Paper



Loneliness is defined as “a subjective, unwelcome feeling of lack or loss of companionship. It happens when we have a mismatch between the quantity and quality of social relationships that we have, and those that we want” (Office for National Satistics).  As Horne notes, loneliness and depression play off one another. Loneliness is not necessarily isolation from people as it is the feeling of being alone (Horne). Van Winkel et al. show that loneliness often is both a predictor and symptom of depression. Depression in other words is typically an underlying current in loneliness.

In recent years there has been a significant increase in the rate of depression among young adults (National Institute of Mental Health). Twenge, Cooper, Joiner, Duffy and Binau show that over the past decade, the number of adolescents who are depressed has more than doubled. This coincides with the rise of social media and the social media usage among adolescents, according to the Pew Research Center, which finds that 95% of teens have access to a smart phone and 45% of teens say they are online “all the time” (Anderson & Jiang). The correlation between the rise of social media use among young people and the rise of depression and loneliness among the same demographic raises serious questions, such as: Is there a relationship between social media use and loneliness among young adults, ages 15-25?

Statement of Research Question and Significance

The research question for this proposal is: Does social media make people lonely—particularly those who are between the ages of 15-25?

The significance of this question can be seen in the fact that depression and loneliness can lead to very negative outcomes for young adults if it is not addressed. They can try to self-medicate and turn to drugs or alcohol, become addicts and end up destroying their lives.

The economic cost of depression in the U.S. is $210 billion per year (Greenberg). This results from trips to the hospital, lost work and production hours, and the toll placed on others who must provide care. The social cost of depression is that teens suffer from bullying, unrealistic views, and peer pressure. Adolescents can become withdrawn and isolated and fear being part of groups that are not online. They can fail to learn basic interaction techniques or how to talk to people face to face. This makes it harder for them to get a job as they are unable to engage in direct conversation with people. It thus limits their chances of employment as well as their future development.

The social effects of depression can be seen in many ways: tiredness, loss of energy, inability to sleep or getting too much sleep, changes in one’s appetite (weight gain or weight loss), abusing drugs or alcohol, constant state of agitation or nervousness, slowness in movements, constant complaints of headaches, isolation, poor academic performance, self-harm, fits of anger, risky behavior, suicidal ideation, feelings of sadness that do not go away and come on for seemingly no reason, frustration over small matters, hopelessness, feeling of emptiness, irritability, loss of interest in past pleasures and in family or friends, no self-esteem, sense of worthlessness or guilt, fixation on self-criticism, inability to focus thoughts or concentrate for long, bleak view of one’s life or future (Mayo Clinic).

If there is evidence of a strong correlation between social media usage and loneliness in young adults, it could be grounds for a public service announcement regarding using social media in moderation.

Literature Review

Social Media and Loneliness

One of the big reasons for the escalation in this issue is that more and more adolescents are turning to the virtual world for support instead of to the real-world where they might have friends and families. On the virtual world, they are spending all their time on social media, comparing themselves to others and wondering why other people have more friends and followers than they do. They become depressed as a result because their self-esteem suffers and they feel lonely and isolated (Lohman). Their entire sense of self-worth is determined by the strength or popularity of their social media page (Lohmann). Many teens today want to be YouTubers and have a career being Influencers. They spend more and more time online focusing on building their own brand. Teens can become addicted to the Internet as a result and can develop self-esteem issues if they are not getting the following they want for themselves on their social media page. The pressure to outperform other YouTube sensations can be overwhelming, and teens can suffer from stress and anxiety, become depressed, and become so attached to their social media profile that they lose touch with the real world.

But, on the other hand, as Chester…

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…that when social media users have at least one intimate friendship in the real world that they take part in on a regular or consistent basis they are less likely to feel lonely as a result of using social media. However, if the user lacks that level of intimacy in real life it is likely that a life spent on social media can cause loneliness or lead to a great sense of loneliness because one is constantly comparing one’s life to what others are sharing about their lives online and there is no real life intimacy developing.

However, it is also likely that there are myriad causes of loneliness and this study may help to show that social media may be one of many factors. Today, people live in a highly pressure-filled environment, where they are impacted by peers, groups and media to think, act, and feel a certain way (Bandura). It sets them up for conflict, both internal and external, and young adults who are unable to cope with such conflict can succumb to negative impulses, such as depressed thoughts, self-doubt, and feelings of loneliness and separation.

According to Erikson’s model of human development, the adolescent stage of development is the fifth stage of development, as is typified by the Identity vs. Role Confusion conflict, which commonly lasts from ages 12-18—i.e., the teenage years (Shriner & Shriner). The next stage is Intimacy vs. Isolation, which can last from 18-40 years of age. It is during these stages of development that people struggle to understand who they are and what they should do with their lives, their talents, their desires, passions and so on. Purpose in life can give a person confidence and that can help them to succeed, but the following conflict—whether one will love and have intimacy with another, or whether the person will be comfortable being alone and not experience negativity about it—these are the next stages that people need to work through. The extent to which social media usage impacts that development process will hopefully be discerned from this study.


This study aims to investigate whether social media can make one lonely. It is an important issue to explore because of the correlation between the rise in depression among young people and the rise in social media use among young people. If there is a connection, it may be important to advise…

Sample Source(s) Used

Works Cited

Andreassen, Cecilie Schou, Ståle Pallesen, and Mark D. Griffiths. "The relationship between addictive use of social media, narcissism, and self-esteem: Findings from a large national survey." Addictive behaviors 64 (2017): 287-293.

Bandura, A. “Toward a psychology of human agency: Pathways and reflections.”  Perspectives on Psychological Science 13.2 (2018): 130-136.

Chester, Jeff, and Kathryn Montgomery. "No escape: Marketing to kids in the digital age." Multinational Monitor 29.1 (2008): 11.

Greenberg, P. The Growing Economic Burden of Depression in the U.S. 2015. Retrieved from

Klinenberg, Eric. "Is loneliness a health epidemic?." New York Times (2018): SR8.

Lim, Xin Jean, et al. "The impact of social media influencers on purchase intention and the mediation effect of customer attitude." Asian Journal of Business Research 7.2 (2017): 19-36.

Lohmann, R. What's Driving the Rise in Teen Depression? 2019.

Mayo Clinic. “Depression.” MayoClinic, 2019.

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