Concluding Remarks

By Andrea Nadeau

My research project was to find out more about the connection between social media use and depression, specifically how teens and young adults used it either as a tool to work through their depression or in other more destructive ways. I wanted to see how it was being used by teens with depression, and how it affects them and their disorder.

There is a lot of media out there on this topic, articles and images constantly popped up whenever I would Google it. I think it's great that people recognize that there's a connection between the two, and are talking about it, but I also felt like the research I found out about is a glass of water compared to the ocean of information that this topic contains. I would really love to see more research and studies done on it.

I was personally inspired about this project and finding out more because as a teenager I struggled with my own self-image and depression, and using social media, for me, was a very constructive way for me to work through what I was going through. At the time I had felt like I couldn't talk to anyone about what I was feeling and thinking. So finding people online that I made connections with and looked up to who had made a life for themselves (when they were also struggling with similar things as I was!) gave me the hope and the courage to work through things and not give up on myself.

Because of how social media helped me at my time of need, I was curious if there were others out there that had used social media like I had. A big part of the research was trying to find scholarly articles that had actually talked to teens and young adults, or surveyed them, and finding out information about the health side of it all.

I started scrolling through the website Tumblr at the beginning of this project to get a sense of what kind of content there was about depression on there these days. There are Tumblr blogs that promote self-harm, eating disorders, and negativity that try to appeal to the people on the site with pictures and quotes that people find relatable, or that they find they desire they want to be like.

The kind of content on there now was a lot different from what I remembered in 2011-2012. There was a lot more media that glamorized and romanticized depression now. But I was happy to see that they had this pop up whenever you searched for something tagged as "depression" on Tumblr:


Some of positive content actually came up when I searched recently on Tumblr for my project report. There were even links to sites to talk to someone about how you're feeling, like The Trevor Project, and other hotlines. Below is some of the media content on Tumblr that was positive:



While all of this positive content was very heart-warming to me, and I was glad it was there, there was so much negative content posted from blogs that it was hard to focus on the good stuff on Tumblr. Even if every other post on Tumblr that was tagged with "depression" was positive content, the negative content was so draining that it was hard to keep scrolling through it all. I don't remember posts like the ones below when I went on Tumblr five or so years ago. I remember a lot more positivity.




In the picture above, the words "Feeling super super super suicidal" actually come from a song written by Marina & The Diamonds called Teen Idle, and you can listen to it here. It was actually song I used to like when I was younger, but it's a pretty dark song.


The media content like that made me very sad for the people out there hurting who were falling into this trap, and for the people who were reblogging all of this without realizing what this means to some people. It made me think that it isn't so surprising that people either develop or have some kind of mental disorder when they use social media. With cyber-bullying and the romanticized version of depression, there's a lot to affect young teens and adults.

I never really considered this before, but I wanted to see if anyone had published stuff about Tumblr and it's ties to depression. I actually found an article by Teen Vogue about it, written by Sarah Devlin. It's called Tumblr Has Ties to Depression (and That Might Not Be Such a Bad Thing). Devlin writes about how there is something for everyone on Tumblr, from eye brow tips and pics to fanfiction to diet blogs, etc. She also writes about the anonymity of the internet, and how Tumblr users utilize it.

Devlin says that there are "pockets of darker content" that seem to manifest on sties where anonymity is available. She asked an eighteen year old why they used Tumblr instead of other social media sites online, and the teen said this: "Sometimes I think you show the 'real you' more through Tumblr."

That's something I'd have to agree with even as a twenty-one year old, and definitely feel myself. Devlin goes on to say, "On Tumblr, it's easier to be vulnerable and share feelings that would otherwise leave a user too exposed on, say, Facebook, which requires that you use your real name."

Online, on social media sites where you can be anonymous, there's access to be who you really are, or who you want to be, and make connections with people around the world with similar interests of thoughts. And sometimes those connections lead to deep friendships or even romance, like it did for one of my best friends.

But Devlin also brings up how prominent and noticeable the talk or suicide and depression is on Tumblr, and points out a couple blogs that are dedicated to reaching out to Tumblr users who seem to be at risk of hurting themselves, which I had no idea existed. So that was really good to read about, and I'm glad there are people out there seeing the dark content being posted and talking to the people who are the ones posting it.

Now this little paragraph by Marianne Spoon makes a lot more sense to me after I've finished this project:

"In a world where social media Web sites spread news of engagements and breakups, job gains and losses, or even news of life and death, it's easy to become overwhelmed. Web sites such as Facebook help you keep up with friends and family, but you're realizing how easy it is to get sucked into the whirlwind of updates and data. We now live during a time when you can follow your pal's every move on his latest beach trip -- even if the only surfing you're doing is on the Web. Let's face it: Using social media can stir up many emotions, including sadness."

Social media isn't something that we're going to get away from anytime soon. In fact, it's something that's getting used more and more as technology advances. With all the sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that make getting likes and comments sort of like a competition, I can see why anyone could develop feelings of low self-worth if they don't have many friends that are constantly liking and commenting on what they post.

With all the research and studies and articles I did read, I found it really interesting to learn more about dana boyd, after looking her up was suggested to me. (Thanks, Morgan!) I really liked the type of research she was doing and how she made connections with the teens she interviewed and surveyed to get to know them better while looking at the connection between social media use and teens.

Depression isn't something you just live with, it affects everything in your life when you don't have control over it. It's sort of like a raging sea monster in a way, because you never know how it's going to strike you. I just feel like we're in a time where depression is so prevalent in society, and so many people are living with it, that there needs to be more done to promote support for people with it and find better ways to help people get through it, too.

Something that I wish I had done with this project is my own survey, to anonymously find out the statistics of Bemidji State Students and their connections (if there were any) with depression and social media. I would have liked to make it more interactive and personal that way, and I think that it would be something very interesting to study at a college.

I think this project has been very good for me to learn more about how depression and social media affect other people, and it's something that I'm going to continue to keep a researcher's eye on in the future. I'm always going to remember what social media did for me.

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