Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 657–665 | Cite as

#Sad: Twitter Content Predicts Changes in Cognitive Vulnerability and Depressive Symptoms

  • Maria P. Sasso
  • Annaleis K. Giovanetti
  • Anastasia L. Schied
  • Hugh H. Burke
  • Gerald J. HaeffelEmail author
Original Article


Research shows that social media networks can affect both the physical and mental health of its users. We hypothesized that social media would also be associated with cognitive vulnerability to depression. To test this hypothesis, we used a 3-month pre-post prospective longitudinal design with a sample of undergraduates (n = 105). Results showed that participants who had tweets with a “past focus” (as determined by LIWC software) were more likely to exhibit increases in cognitive vulnerability and depressive symptoms than participants who did not have tweets with a past focus. Increases in cognitive vulnerability were associated with increases in depressive symptoms. However, the effect of Twitter content on future depressive symptoms was not accounted for by increases in cognitive vulnerability. Rather, one’s past focus Twitter content had an effect on future depressive symptoms that was independent of its effect on future cognitive vulnerability levels. These results provide further support for the plasticity of cognitive vulnerability in early adulthood as well as corroborate emerging evidence for the association between social media and mental health risk factors.


Cognitive vulnerability Depression Twitter Social media Contagion 



The study did not receive funding.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Maria P. Sasso, Annaleis K. Giovanetti, Anastasia L. Schied, Hugh H. Burke, and Gerald J. Haeffel declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe University of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

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