Social media engagement has been inconsistently linked to depression and it is important to determine whether specific motivations for engagement are linked to depression and what the mechanisms may be. This study investigated five factors of mindfulness as potential mediators between behavioral, affective, and cognitive social media engagement and depression. Participants (between 17 and 24 years old) at a university or found through social media (Reddit, Facebook, and Instagram; N = 371) were given the Five Factor Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), the Social Media Engagement Scale for Adolescents (SMES-A), and the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-8), which measured depression. The awareness facet of mindfulness significantly mediated the relationship between all three social media engagement subscales (behavioral, affective, and cognitive) and depression. Additionally, there was a significant mediation between the affective engagement subscale and depression by the nonjudge, nonreact, and describe facets of mindfulness. Our results suggest that mindfulness is an important mechanism of the relationship between social media engagement and depression. The implementation of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) may be useful to help teach how to engage in social media mindfully and positively.
There is widespread public concern that social media use is linked to negative psychological effects, particularly depression (Twenge, Joiner, Rogers, & Martin, 2017). However, the research presents a more complex picture. Some correlational research has directly linked social media use and depression, including research that has examined these patterns over time (Lin et al., 2016; Twenge et al., 2017). Furthermore, another study found that reduced social media use decreased depression, indicating a potential causal connection (Hunt, Marx, Lipson, & Young, 2018). However, a meta-analysis by Seabrook, Kern, and Rickard (2016) revealed mixed results on the association between social media use and depression. They found that the relationship between problematic social media use and depression varied and depended on the quality of social media interactions. Another recent study showed no relationship between screen time and adolescent well-being (Orben & Przybylski, 2019). Furthermore, Davila et al. (2012) found that the quality of social media interactions was associated with depression, rather than simply quantity of social media use. Therefore, how people spend their time on social media, their motivation and type of engagement, and their mindset while engaging with it may be more important than use alone. These are particularly important issues to examine today because social media use has increased dramatically during the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic (Singh, Dixit, & Joshi, 2020; Singh, Singh, Mahato, & Hambour, 2020).