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Do not demonize social media without reason

By Zhang Zhouxiang | China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-17 08:03

A US study published in Molecular Psychiatry recently says youngsters who browse social media networks for more than three hours a day could be more susceptible to depression and anxiety. China Daily writer Zhang Zhouxiang comments:

Domestic media outlets have reported the study's results with big, bold headlines such as "Social networks cause depression" or "Browsing social media makes you depressed". These headlines are meant to catch readers' eyes. Yet they are misleading.

In the initial report, the researchers have been quoted as saying no evidence was found to suggest browsing social media for long hours causes mental disorders. They only said there could be a link between the two. But the majority of domestic media outlets ignored this important fact.

The harm this mistake or deliberate omission of fact may cause could far exceed the expectations of those who gave the misleading headlines.

Many professionals are discussing whether excessive browsing of social media could lead to depression.

One guess is that people who spend long hours browsing social media networks might be leading lonely lives, without much contact with friends or family members, which is an important cause of mental disorders.

Such people do have a higher risk of developing a mental disorder but that has little to do with social media, because they browse social media just to kill time. If further research shows this hypothesis is correct, the authorities should take measures to help those living lonely, isolated lives.

And only if foolproof research shows browsing social media for long hours could lead to mental disorders should people call for legislation to limit the time a netizen spends on social media.

Until then, it would be unfair to blame social media for causing mental disorders.

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