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How Your Instagram Feed May Indicate Depression

You can learn a lot about yourself by analyzing the way you manage and react to Instagram news feeds.

If you have an Instagram account (a social networking tool used for sharing videos and photos), you may be aware of how being on Instagram makes you feel. While some people thrive on having an Instagram account and news feed, it can be a cause of depression and anxiety for others.

What Studies Show

Compared with other social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube), Instagram was rated as having the worst impact on young people’s mental health, says a U.K. study reported in PubMed Health. Why is this the case? Poor Instagram scores from people surveyed were based on issues like loneliness, anxiety, depression, body image, bullying, and a “fear of missing out” (peers seem to enjoy a better quality of life). However, researchers determined that social media can also have positive effects for teens, like improved self-identity and a sense of community.

A 2016 study published in JMIR Mental Health also found that social networking sites (like Instagram and Facebook) correlate with well-being or mental illness, and can be detrimental or beneficial depending on the quality of social interaction on these sites.

Why Social Media Affects Emotions

Many factors affect whether or not your Instagram experience is a positive one. If you post pictures (or videos) and news feed friends interact in a positive way, it can bring you some joy. If you're able to see pictures of family and friends you don’t get to see face to face on a regular basis, Instagram is a way to help you feel more connected to those people—even if you live on the other side of the country.

However, there are times when Instagram can lead to negative emotions. If you’re not getting the reactions you’d hoped for from peers after posting pictures or videos—or if you see pictures of peers doing fun things (without you)—sadness, jealousy or anger can begin to set in.

When Instagram Feeds Indication Depression

Wondering whether or not your Instagram feed indicates possible depression? There are several warning signs to watch out for that may correlate with depression:

  • Exposure to negativity or cyberbullying on news feeds.
  • Posting pictures of sad or angry situations.
  • Following few or many strangers—if you’re following mostly close friends and family members, depression due to social comparison can be greater, according to a 2015 study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. But if you're following mainly strangers, it could be an indicator you have few close friends.
  • Spending lots of time on social media. A 2017 study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that spending more than two hours per day (or visiting 58 times or more weekly) on social media significantly boosts odds of feeling socially isolated, compared with people who spend less than 30 minutes daily (or nine visits weekly) on Instagram or Facebook.

Depression is Serious

If you have symptoms of depression, see your doctor to determine possible causes and treatment options. If social media (such as Instagram) is a culprit, it might be time to deactivate your account—or limit time spent browsing social media news feeds.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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