Some people may be starting to come to grips with the fact that social media isn’t so great for mental health. Others may think that getting on it will give them a boost—but especially depending on how you spend your time on it, you may well feel worse after using. Plenty of studies have found correlations between higher social media use and poorer mental health, including depression, anxiety, feelings of loneliness and isolation, lower self-esteem, and even suicidality.
But two new studies underline this reality by showing not just correlation, but causation—in other words, that tweaking your time on social media actually has measurable effects on mental health.
The first study, carried out at the University of Pennsylvania and published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, asked 140 undergraduates to either continue their regular use of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, or to limit each one to 10 minutes per day (30 minutes total). The participants also provided data from their phones to show precisely how much time they were actually spending on the apps, rather than relying on memory, which can be unreliable.