Depression in Nigeria: Social Media is not the Cause

No matter who you are, where you went, or what you did this morning, it’s very likely that social media was involved. If you didn’t ‘stop by’ to check up with friends on Facebook, then you posted photos from your last weekend on Instagram. One way or the other, social media has been integrated into our lives, such that now they form part of our morning routine.

As a young person in Nigeria today, you’re more likely to use social media than not. Because approximately 65% of all Nigerians have a social media profile of some kind, it is where they spend most of their time.

The Use of Social Media in Nigeria

Despite the popularity of different social media platforms and the rapidity with which they’ve inserted themselves into nearly all facets of our lives, there’s a remarkable lack of clear data about how they affect us personally: our families, work, relationships, social life, and our mental health.

Recent studies have gone on to link the use of social media to depression, poorer sleep quality, anxiety, lower self-esteem, hyperactivity, and inattention — often in teens and young adults.

These studies, however, are almost entirely of a correlational nature, and this means researchers have not been able to establish whether or not one is causing the other.

The Impact of Social Media
depressed woman with hands on her face

The notion that social media has a negative impact on mental well-being is widespread. There are talks that the reason for the unproductivity of young people is their increased use of social media. What we forget is that as the days go by, trends change; and everyone who does not change with, either ‘dies’ or becomes ‘extinct’. As a matter of fact, to be off social media these days is to commit a career or business suicide.

A study was conducted to examine the role of social media in depression. The study was necessitated by the need to curb the supposed effects of social media on young people. You should hear people talk about young people’s ‘addiction’ to social media. The supposed effects sound so drastic that anyone who cares to listen will put off their cellphones and never use them again.

However, a new research has now dispelled the belief that social media use can cause depression. The researchers who conducted it say that most of the previous studies made their claims based on measurements from a single point in time, but this new study took a long-term approach.

“You have to follow the same people over time in order to draw the conclusion that social media use predicts greater depressive symptoms,”

says lead study author Taylor Heffer, of Brock University in St. Catharine’s, Canada.

The New Study

The new study focused on two separate groups of participants. One was made up of 594 adolescents in the sixth, seventh, or eighth grade in Ontario, Canada. The other comprised of 1,132 undergraduate students.

The team surveyed the younger group for two years and the older students annually for a total of six years. In the end, Heffer and her team were surprised to discover that among adolescent girls, the relationship was actually the other way around: symptoms of depression predicted greater social media use over time. Females of this age “who are feeling down may turn to social media to try and make themselves feel better”, she reported.

Now, it clear that the worries that young people who use social media are at a greater risk of developing symptoms of depression later in life may be unfounded.

The only thing scholars have with this research is the fact that the region does not cover young people in Nigeria. My argument for the research, however, is that young people are the same everywhere. The things, people, kind of jobs and hobbies that they are interested in are the same in most societies around the world.

No Need For The Fear

These findings suggest that overuse of social media does not, actually, lead to depression. More importantly, this may go some way toward dissuading public fear over the impacts of the technology.

As Heffer explains,

“When parents read media headlines such as ‘Facebook Depression,‘ there is an inherent assumption that social media use leads to depression. Policymakers also have recently been debating ways to tackle the effects of social media use on mental health.”

It is likely that differences in factors such as personality play a part in how social media can impact a person’s mental well-being. For example, some young people might choose to use social media negatively as a comparison tool, while others may simply use it to stay in touch with friends.

There is a tendency that people who feel like there is something wrong with them, would go online that forget their troubles. As for those who go online to compare their progress to that of their peers, I say they already have issues with the way they see themselves.

Scientists and other researchers will now need to further examine motivations such as these to help authorities, medical experts, and parents figure out where we go from here.