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New research links night-time social media use and depression

Positivity breeds positivity in others – Australian research has shown social media’s effectiveness in building positive, supportive online communities – and it seems the opposite also applies.

A joint study by universities in Australia and China has discovered a link between depression and the use of social media late at night. The study claims that people who are depressed are more active on social platforms between 11pm and 3am compared to other users.

Facebook recently came under fire for manipulating the news feeds and timelines of users, to see whether the tone of status updates from their friends affected their emotions. That wasn’t an official research project by any means, but it did highlight the ‘infectious’ psychological effects of written content on mood.

This month’s reported study was conducted to monitor users of the Chinese social networking site Weibo. It has one of the largest active user bases of any social platform in the world, with close to 10 million core users logging in regularly. Between the study group and the control group, those with symptoms of depression were seen to make more updates and interactions late into the night. Where here in the UK we frequently see people updating their Facebook status at 2am because they’re having a night out, clearly not every situation is the same.

From the research, it has been suggested that those suffering with depression have a distinct linguistic pattern. Depressed social media users were more likely to use words such as ‘depression’, ‘pain’ and ‘life’ in their status updates.

It’s such a shame that negativity in writing has a profound impact on the reader’s mood. That’s the true power of words. While it’s not possible to change or control what other people are saying on social media, when posting an update users have the power to pick their own words carefully. Just as with brands in advertising, it’s important users are mindful of how words can affect those who read them. 

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