Depression and Social Media Use
Social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook are a relatively new phenomenon, but for many people, take up a large portion of free time. It is easy to spend hours scrolling through a feed, looking at pictures and other user-created content from friends and celebrities. The content we find on social media is important because it influences how we see ourselves and make sense of the world around us. People on social media interact differently than they would in person; there are different norms about what is socially acceptable, especially when it comes to humor. Reyes, Rosso, and Buscaldi (2012) analyzed the figurative humor used on social media and noted that understanding irony and humor on social media requires the ability to understand what is being said in context. This context is important for creating a sense of belonging that humans, as social creatures, crave. Meanwhile, other researchers have found correlations between mental health problems and social media use but have yet to uncover if one causes the other. The proposed study seeks to find if dark figurative humor about things like suicide on social media is detrimental to people, specifically with depression.
Social media is different from other media outlets like newspapers and television because its content is user-generated, for the most part. According to Perloff (2014), social comparison theory explains why social media might influence people more than other media outlets. This model essentially states that people are more heavily influenced by their peers, especially ones they share an aspect of their identity with. In the case of social media, user-generated content would be especially influential on users because of their ability to see people they have interacted with during their day to day lives represented online (Perloff 2014).