Social media can be detrimental to your health, and the people you choose to have in your social circles may be the reason why.
A study conducted by researchers at Pace University linked the frequent use of photo-sharing app Instagram with symptoms of depression. The constant self-comparisons that users make among their peers was the primary reason for the negative emotions.
In addition, depression affected those who followed a higher ratio of strangers to friends more extremely than users who followed a high ratio of friends to strangers. Instagram users followed an average four strangers for every six people they know in real life.
The online survey calculated responses from 117 Instagram users between the ages of 18 and 29. Participants were given a questionnaire that measured depressive symptoms depending on their score.
The results suggest that the number of strangers a user has in their newsfeed may lead to negative comparisons derived from photos that may not be an accurate representation of reality. On the other hand, the researchers wrote:
“… seeing photos of friends and acquaintances might trigger positive feelings, or at least be counterbalanced by knowing how those people actually live, and thus reduce attribution error and thereby negative social comparison.”
The study did not discern whether the negative emotions were a direct effect of following strangers on Instagram or whether those who followed strangers were more susceptible to feelings of depression.