Adolescents with depression on social media

Before we created the sova websites: sova for adolescents and young adults and wisesova for parents, we wanted to learn about how adolescents with depression and their parents use social media. In user design, you want to know how someone uses a technology tool currently before you try to modify it. Also, we wanted to know whether or not social media was a good strategy to use to reach young people with depression?

We definitely learned some interesting things! Recently, this work was published in the Journal of Adolescence. If you cannot access a copy, I am happy to send it to you if you email me a request.

Some of our main findings included that adolescents with depression:

  • Like using social media to search out information, for distraction, social connection, and share positive content like quotes or funny videos
  • Also use social media in some negative ways like sharing risky behaviors like sneaking out or to compare themselves with others
  • When in a bad mood some adolescents would “stress post” or share a negative thought as a status update as a way to get it off their chest or look for social support
  • Others would “overshare” or share too much personal information or mundane facts about their lives with the effect sometimes leading to cyberbullying
  • Sometimes would feel triggered by posts they would see like of pictures of self-harm

As adolescents got older and got treatment for their depression, they would also change how they used social media in a more positive way. For example, they would send a private message to a friend who had been supportive in the past – versus sending out a Twitter status on a fishing expedition to see who might notice or respond.

These adolescents had a lot of useful information to share about social media and we are happy to share their opinion and observations with the academic world by disseminating this work.  I will be talking about this work and related research at two upcoming conferences for clinicians and families:

The 2017 Annual STAR Center Conference at University of Pittsburgh May 5, 2017


The NAMI Keystone PA Mental Health and Wellness Conference in Harrisburg May 12-13, 2017

We hope you can join the SOVA team there!

2 thoughts on “Adolescents with depression on social media”

  1. I am 26 now, and even as an adult, I have to admit I have a similar case to this adolescent depression on social media. I do a lot of stress post, negative posts, and sometimes when I am really down, I get to share too much information, that I end up deleting later. Most times, this becomes late, and as a result, I get cyber bullied.

    I want to believe I do not regret all the things I do online because when dropping this negative posts, I feel as though I shelved a burden, and that I have thought others who read my posts a lesson. Writing has bee the only way I tend to stay away from depression.

    I believe my depression came from witnessing domestic violence meted out to my mum till she died. With a lot of things going on at my age, no job after school and all, it is hard to be cheerful at all times.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Rapport Naija. You are not alone in this and we hope you have support from a mental health professional to help you with depression. Sometimes what you have posted on social media can be a starting point of topics to discuss with a therapist. Try bringing them what you have written. We are also doing a study to understand if blogging about depression is helpful. Check out some of our stakeholders’ blogs about creative ways they write about their depression to a community of supportive followers: and

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