A recent study published in the Journal of Adolescence claims that "excessive" use of instant messaging and social networks can lead to significantly higher levels of depression - among 14-year-old girls.
The problem, according to Stony Brook University Professor Dr. Joanne Davila, is that easy access to email, social networks and other forms of always-on communications leads to excessive and repetitive discussions of the same problem, also known as "co-rumination," which can worsen the mood of teenage girls and create negative emotions. "There is a wealth of communication technology available to teens today that allows them to talk over and over again about the same emotional difficulties," Davila said. "Texting, instant messaging and social networking make it very easy for adolescents to become even more anxious, which can lead to depression."
Davila's study interviewed 83 girls around 13 years of age, asking questions about how much time they spent talking to friends about their problems and how often they "revisited" the same problems, and also given a test for depressive symptoms. A year later they were contacted with follow-up questions and were given the test again; higher levels of discussing problems with friends were "significantly" linked to higher levels of depression.
"Lots of talking can help if those involved have strong problem-solving skills because it helps them reach a solution and it builds friendships," Davila said. But she also warned that teenagers "often don't realize that excessive talking is actually making them feel worse." And while girls are the focus of Davila's study, she added that the proliferation of communications technology could eventually lead to more "co-rumination" between teenage boys as well. "It's most likely they are discussing the game last night or meeting up, but there's a possibility they could start discussing emotional problems more than in the past which would put them at risk," she said.
I've never been a teenage girl myself but I had the opportunity to spend many of my formative years living in the same house as one of them, and here's a newsflash: Long before the advent of Facebook, MSN and text messaging, I lost count of how many times the whole friggin' world came crashing down around us because somebody was being such a bitch. Does modern technology facilitate personal communication on a scale never before seen? Absolutely. Are the lives of teenage girls packed with drama and woe because of it? I don't think so.