Scientists say there is a clear link between Facebook and depression
A growing body of scientific evidence suggests there may be a link between social media use and depression, NPR reports, with teen depression and suicide rates on the rise for more than a decade – and some experts believe Facebook in particular is trying to hide any correlation between poor mental health outcomes and media use social.
This is a relevant topic, since Facebook is trying to offer its products to an increasingly younger population. Last week, a group of 40 attorneys general urged CEO Mark Zuckerberg to drop plans to create a version of Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) aimed at under-13s, according to NBC.
Zuckerberg, however, questioned the research during a congressional hearing in March that also included Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
“I don’t think the research is conclusive on this,” he told Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) at the hearing, after she asked him to acknowledge the connection between worsening mental health of children and the use of social media.
The researchers disagree with Zuckerberg’s assessment.
âThe correlative evidence showing that there is a link between social media use and depression is pretty definitive at this point,â said Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at Diego State University. NPR.
âThe largest and best-conducted studies we have all show that teens who spend more time on social media are more likely to be depressed or unhappy,â he added.
Yet the evidence is far from conclusive. Hard data is hard to come by and funding is scarce.
And it’s frustrating lawmakers.
âYou have an outdated liability shield that makes you look away or take half measures while you earn billions at the expense of our children, our health and the truth,â said Rep. Kathy. Castor (D-FL) at the hearing. , Quoted by NPR.
During the same hearing, Zuckerberg revealed that his company was doing internal research into the effects of social media on children’s mental health – but was unwilling to share its findings.
“I believe they did the research,” said McMorris Rodgers, who attended the March hearing and spoke to Zuckerberg on the subject. NPR. “They are not transparent.”
McMorris Rodgers is convinced that Facebook is much more concerned with its bottom line – and that includes its motivation to sell engagement-based ads.
The company’s profits are directly linked to the number of people engaged and their level of engagement. And this is often done at the cost of a lack of awareness of the mental health of its users.
âBasically all the things that would make these platforms healthier for people to use, which is spending less time, not following strangers, not spending time scrolling. passively this random flow that is suggested to you, “University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Melissa Hunt said NPR. “It completely undermines their entire business model.”
Recently, academics who were first contacted by Facebook have heard little about the company’s efforts to study the effects of its platforms on mental health.
We’re collectively spending a lot more time than ever on social media, and the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped.
It should be Facebook – the company that benefits directly – to lead the charge to investigate these effects in a transparent manner.
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