Without social media, that pressure melted away. I started to enjoy life’s more mundane moments and take stock of what I have today — a great job, a wonderful community, supportive friends and so on. I could take my time and enjoy it rather than rushing to the finish line.
In short, I started to feel happier and lighter.
In the aftermath of that realization, I read up on the latest research regarding the impact of frequent social media use. A few recent studies do suggest that I’m not alone: A group of students who limited their social media usage saw a significant decline in depressive symptoms, and a survey in the U.K. found that Instagram is the most damaging for young people’s mental health.
For the latest thinking from academics on the subject, I turned to John Torous, director of the digital psychiatry division at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Torous said he doesn’t rule out the possibility that social media is making people more depressed and anxious, but he pointed out that the research is still early. People react differently to these tools based on a variety of factors, so we can’t really draw any hard and fast conclusions.
“We’re still in the early stages of figuring out how the brain reacts when it’s connected in this way that we haven’t seen before,'” he told me.
There’s also the thorny issue of causation versus correlation. In other words, it’s unclear whether social media was making me more anxious, or my anxiety dropped once I stopped using Instagram because I had more time for things that made me happy, like exercise, intimate conversations with friends or a good book.
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