Feeling Lonely and Depressed?

New research suggests a simple switch could significantly improve your mood.

Josh Gonzales
Nov 22, 2018 · 3 min read
Photo by Adrien Olichon via Unsplash

A recent study conducted by Dr. Melissa G. Hunt and colleagues shows that limiting your social media use to 30 minutes a day could significantly reduce your feelings of loneliness and depression.

In the study, 143 undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania were randomly placed in one of two conditions for three weeks. Half of the students were told to use social media the way they normally do. The other half were placed in an experimental condition and told to limit their time on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Students in the experimental condition were told to only spend 10 minutes on each social media channel per day.

At the end of the three weeks, Dr. Hunt found that the students who limited their social media use were significantly less depressed and lonely than the students who had used social media the way they normally do. Students who had the highest levels of depression at the beginning of the study showed the biggest improvements, and even students who already had low levels of depression showed moderate improvement in mood!

Interestingly, as a whole, students in the study showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out (also known as FOMO). This suggests that just being aware of your social media use could improve your well-being!


So…what does this mean for you?

The effects of social media on well-being have been studied before but, for the most part, studies have been correlational. In other words, there was no way to tell if social media was causing people to feel bad or if people feeling bad was causing them to use social media. This was the first study done with an experimental design, and the results of this study suggest that social media could, in fact, be the root of some of your problems.

We all love to spend a little too much time on social media. But the habit could potentially be causing you to suffer from more loneliness and depression. Here are some possible solutions:

  • Use an app like In Moment or Space to monitor your social media behaviour.
  • Use an app like App Detox, AntiSocial, or Off The Grid to limit your social media use to half an hour each day.
  • If you’re feeling hardcore, delete social media apps off your phone altogether.

The main takeaway: spend less time with your phone and more time with the people you love. As Dr. Hunt puts it in her paper:

It is ironic, but perhaps not surprising, that reducing social media, which promised to help us connect with others, actually helps people feel less lonely and depressed.


Josh Gonzales

Written by

Data Specialist, Science Writer, and Freelance Photographer. I have a Master’s in Experimental & Applied Psychology. https://joshgonzales.ca

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade