Social media is not media

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Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok create an escapist persona for many of us staged by influencers, experts and self help gurus. It is the first thing that we check in the morning and the last thing we glance at before dropping off to sleep. Research has shown that we spend more time on social media sites than actually making true human connections.

However, having an illness isolates you like nothing else in life and their is some solace to be found from spending time on these sites. It is a new way of living, and less expensive than a shrink. Depression is endemic, a first world problem but also a third world’s reality. Everyone needs a connection and if social media can provide this, why not?

Can social media therefore have its uses in chronic health conditions? This is a topic rarely studied by researchers, although the websites themselves have their own algorithms to study this at a click of a button. This information, however is not freely available to the public.

In a small study conducted in Iran the investigators looked at the link between social media use and depression. Using those who spent <1 h/day for <5 times/month as controls, depression levels were found to be better in those who used social media than those who didn’t. There was no association with the number of social media sites visited, type or duration.

The authors state: “One of the useful aspects of technology in MS patients has been the use of social networks, for a better support in health-related coping, social interactions, and patient informing processes“.

Below is a letter to the editor criticising this article, which highlights the importance of a good review. But, the only comment of import in my opinion is the one about performing an ANOVA vs univariate analysis that was performed in the article. The rest is simply information that can be obtained from the authors.

Panda-Sharawat2021_Article_DepressionInIndividualsWithMul

Abstract

The impact of social media use on depression in multiple sclerosis patients

Acta Neurologica Belgica volume 120, pages1405–1409(2020)

Social media is a powerful tool in providing information and support for minority groups such as patients with chronic diseases. We aimed to assess the link between using online social media and depression in a sample population of Iranian Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients. In this cross-sectional study, a number of MS patients between 18–55 years were recruited. The Persian-language version of the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II-Persian) was used to screen MS patients for depression. We selected a cut-off point of 16 to identify depressed MS patients, who answered the self-administered questionnaire designed by the authors (the validity and reliability was confirmed before). Patients, whose interaction with social networks and communication tools was limited to < 1 h/day for < 5 times/month, were allocated as controls. A two-sided p < 0.05 was considered statistically significant. We compared the depression score between patients who used internet and social media (16.38 ± 8.35) with those who did not (25 ± 13.98). We found out there was a significant difference (p = 0.046). However, there were no significant differences between the type (r = 0.098, p = 0.513) and duration (r = − 0.102, p = 0.564) of social media with depression score. Also, based on a cutoff of 3 number of social media there was no significant difference in the status of depression among patients (p = 0.921). Based on the experience of patients, it is helpful to implement a source using online social media to facilitate patients’ access to rehabilitation support and establish support groups with standard supervised information delivery.

About the author

Neuro Doc Gnanapavan

12 comments

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  • We’re Connecting online,
    The ones who wake up in the night
    With a Dragon biting our ankles.
    If You don’t know the MonSter Personally (as in Possessed by)
    Then It’s good for Neurologists to evaluate the Psychological Status of their patients in general.
    MS is Itself a Failure. Losing aspects of your young life.
    People Look at You Differently.
    Social media removes barriers to my virtual friendships and Church.
    It’s a new world. Embrace every moment.

  • An interesting topic. If anyone was interested in studying what benefit the internet as a whole to the pwMS might like to assess the value of

    Websites of MS Society and MS Trust
    MS Society message board
    MS Trust Facebook page
    The Barts Blog
    Exercise sites
    Education sites such as Future Learn including the Menzies MS Course
    Other web resources are available

    These are the resources that have answered questions, provided social interaction, and kept me sane. It is very easy for pwMS to become isolated and my hypothesis is that social media in its widest sense prevents this. We have managed to resurrect our local exercise group online which has helped us t

    • Interesting post! Agree with you Colin – exact same point I wish to make.

      In fact, I don’t access any social media sites. My brief foray into the world of Facebook engendered the sorts of responses I’ve heard others complain of – irritation and envy.

      However, I can’t help but conclude that if I didn’t access this Blog on a daily basis then I’d be more vulnerable to feeling fed-up. Ditto with regards the almost daily WhatsApp contact with family and friends.

      Of course, looking at depression accurately has to surely be multi-dimensional in nature and if looking at online activity of PwMS it could be argued this should be as wide a brief as possible.

    • Hi Colin, so we don’t analyse our blog at all beyond looking at the number of visitors and asking our readers what they’d like to hear about or any changes that they’d like. The same probably applies to other professional websites. I think forums are a different kettle of fish and of course the tabloids are very different. This is why the title is that it’s not media.

  • This is the only site I comment on, but read social sites such as Facebook and Twitter and Money Saving Expert.

    To say I would be shrivelled up in bed and mega depressed without interaction on the web is a huge understament

  • There’s surely nothing more damaging to mental health than using social media and forming fly-by-night, false friendships? But I think leaning on others for emotional support generally, whether in the real world or online, is not healthy. Happiness comes from within oneself, attitudes.

  • Odd paper and odd letter. I would remind both in the value of qualitative methods, when considering complex social constructs.

    I’m sure anyone with ms could tell them. Social media is useful as ms is rare so finding either personal or professional emotional or instrumental support that aligns with your own worldview is unlikely to turn up on your doorstep. The negatives are that it is hard to evaluate sources and you can withdraw into it away from your actually reality who are much more likely to care about you than the peopl in the internet…

  • Thank you for writing this. I ventured onto Twitter last summer – partly because I was feeling isolated during the pandemic. I was a bit hesitant to go on – because of its toxic reputation. (I have never been on Facebook). However, I have been very pleasantly surprised. It has been a great source of MS information and has introduced me to a much wider community of people with MS who are all very supportive. Fortunately, I haven’t come across any unpleasantness so far. A few random men have been in touch – sending me photos of themselves beside their cars or in a bar – but I just block them. I understand this pretty much happens to every woman on Twitter…

    • I agree, Twitter is probably the easiest social media site to use. You can keep yourself busy but not be pressured into interacting directly with users on it.

  • MY HELPER

    I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). My vision was blurred for three months. I had closed my fingers in my front door without realizing it. I knew then something was wrong. I called my primary doctor who examined me and then sent me to the hospital. An MRI was performed and I was diagnosed with MS. I have been on World Herbs Clinic, MS HERBAL FORMULA for two month plus now, all my symptoms has decline completely, i feel normal again, but i have few weeks left completing the treatment.

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