Reduce the Impact of Problematic Social Media Use on Depression During the Covid-19 Pandemic with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Social media addiction is becoming an increasing problem. . . Mindfulness is a training that helps us become more present, self aware and better able to respond rather than react on autopilot in our everyday lives. It’s been shown to help with impulse control . . .and is a powerful tool for kicking addictions ranging from drugs, to social media.” – Elise Bialylew
Over the last few decades, the internet has gone from a rare curiosity to the dominant mode of electronic communications. In fact, it has become a dominant force in daily life, occupying large amounts of time and attention. As useful as the internet may be, it can also produce negative consequences. “Problematic Internet Use” is now considered a behavioral addiction, with almost half of participants in one study considered “Internet addicts”, developing greater levels of “tolerance” and experiencing “withdrawal” and distress when deprived. This phenomenon is so new that there is little understanding of its nature, causes, and consequences and how to treat it.
Mindfulness training has been shown to be helpful with each of the components of addictions, decreasing cravings, impulsiveness, and psychological and physiological responses to stress, and increasing emotion regulation. It is no wonder then that mindfulness training has been found to be effective for the treatment of a variety of addictions. It also has been found to be helpful in overcoming internet and smartphone addictions.
Problematic use of the internet and social media has been amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic. It has produced social isolation and interacting over the internet is one of the few means available to communicate. It is not known the extent to which mindfulness may help to prevent social media use from becoming problematic promoting fear and depression.
In today’s Research News article “Relationship Between Problematic Social Media Usage and Employee Depression: A Moderated Mediation Model of Mindfulness and Fear of COVID-19.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.557987/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1514613_69_Psycho_20201224_arts_A ) Majeed and colleagues recruited adult Pakistanis who were employed during the Covid-19 lockdown. The participants completed online questionnaires measuring problematic social media usage, fear of Covid-19, depression, and mindfulness.
They found that the greater the problematic social media usage, the greater the fear of Covid-19, and depression and the lower the level of mindfulness. In addition, the greater the fear of Covid-19, the greater the level of depression and the lower the level of mindfulness. Finally, the greater the level of mindfulness the lower the level of depression. They performed a mediation analysis and found that the fear of Covid-19 mediated the positive relationship of problematic social media usage with depression such that problematic social media usage was associated with greater fear of Covid-19, which was, in turn, associated with greater depression. They further found that this mediation was moderated by mindfulness such that the higher the levels of mindfulness the weaker the mediation of fear of Covid-19.
These are correlative findings and as such must be interpreted with caution. But they show that higher problematic social media usage is associated with depression via fear of Covid-19 and this mediation is dampened by mindfulness. “Problematic social media usage is defined as; an excessive use of social media regularly, to the extent that it seems difficult to stay away from it.” It can be speculated that overuse of social media during the pandemic reinforces the fear of the disease and this fear in a lockdown context promotes depression.
Mindfulness appears to be somewhat of an antidote reducing the impact of the social media use on fear and depression. To some extent this is not surprising as mindfulness has been repeatedly shown to decrease depression and fear. Mindfulness also has been found to be helpful in overcoming internet and smartphone addictions. What is new here is the effect of mindfulness on the lowering the impact of social media use on fear and depression during a pandemic.
So, reduce the impact of problematic social media use on depression during the Covid-19 pandemic with mindfulness.
“compulsive mobile SNS use induces stress and that mindfulness has also lowering effects on stress derived from such compulsive behavior,” – Vanessa Apaolaza
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Majeed M, Irshad M, Fatima T, Khan J and Hassan MM (2020) Relationship Between Problematic Social Media Usage and Employee Depression: A Moderated Mediation Model of Mindfulness and Fear of COVID-19. Front. Psychol. 11:557987. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.557987
Social media plays a significant role in modern life, but excessive use of it during the COVID-19 pandemic has become a source of concern. Supported by the conservation of resources theory, the current study extends the literature on problematic social media usage during COVID-19 by investigating its association with emotional and mental health outcomes. In a moderated mediation model, this study proposes that problematic social media use by workers during COVID-19 is linked to fear of COVID-19, which is further associated with depression. The current study tested trait mindfulness as an important personal resource that may be associated with reduced fear of COVID-19 despite problematic social media use. The study collected temporally separate data to avoid common method bias. Pakistani employees (N = 267) working in different organizations completed a series of survey questionnaires. The results supported the moderated mediation model, showing that problematic social media use during the current pandemic is linked to fear of COVID-19 and depression among employees. Furthermore, trait mindfulness was found to be an important buffer, reducing the negative indirect association between problematic social media use and depression through fear of COVID-19. These results offer implications for practitioners. The limitations of this study and future research directions are also discussed.