Isabella Szklany

Analyzing App Usage’s Effects on Mental health of 18-to-25-year-olds.

Presented by: Isabella Szklany
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Benjamin Wagner, Associate Professor of Psychology & Elaine Winship, Associate Professor of Communication Arts    

New forms of communication have provided new opportunities for groundbreaking research about the impact of media on daily life, particularly smartphone usage and social media activity. Research has already shown that increased social media use leads to higher levels of depression and loneliness among 18-to-25-year-olds (Hunt et al., 2018). But while some research points to smartphones, themselves, as the source for mental illness (Demirci et al., 2015), the question posed is: Are smartphones or social media the cause for increased mental distress? In a study of over 100 St.Thomas Aquinas College Students, we hypothesized that social networking sites are the cause for mental distress among 18-to-25-year-olds. In the study, students were assigned to one of two different groups of smartphone apps. The experimental group included social networking sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Tik Tok, and the control group had email, messaging, shopping, video-streaming services, and news apps. Students were directed to spend ten minutes on one of the assigned apps and then asked to rate their mental wellbeing. Specific traits of mental illness analyzed were anxiety and FOMO (the fear of missing out). We hope that the results point to social media usage as the cause for mental distress.