#Sad: Twitter Content Predicts Changes in Cognitive Vulnerability and Depressive Symptoms
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.
KeywordsCognitive 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.
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 was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- Alloy, L. B., Abramson, L. Y., Hogan, M. E., Whitehouse, W. G., Rose, D. T., Robinson, M. S., … Lapkin, J. B. (2000). The Temple-Wisconsin Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression (CVD) Project: Lifetime history of Axis I psychopathology in individuals at high and low cognitive vulnerability to depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 109, 403–418. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-843X.109.3.403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Alloy, L. B., Abramson, L. Y., Tashman, N. A., Berrebbi, D. S., Hogan, M. E., Whitehouse, W. G., … Morocco, A. (2001). Developmental origins of cognitive vulnerability to depression: Parenting, cognitive, and inferential feedback styles of the parents of individuals at high and low cognitive risk for depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 25, 397–423. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1005534503148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Alloy, L. B., Abramson, L. Y., Whitehouse, W. G., Hogan, M. E., Panzarella, C., & Rose, D. T. (2006). Prospective incidence of first onsets and recurrences of depression in individuals at high and low cognitive risk for depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 115, 145–156. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021843X.115.1.145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Beck, A. T., Rush, A. J., Shaw, B. F., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive therapy of depression. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Eichstaedt, J. C., Schwartz, H. A., Ker, M. L., Park, G., Labarthe, D. R., Merchant, R. M. … Seligman, M. E. (2015). Psychological language on Twitter predicts county-level heart disease mortality. Psychological Science, 26(2), 159–169. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797614557867.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Haeffel, G. J., Abramson, L. Y., Brazy, P., Shah, J., Teachman, B., & Nosek, B. (2007). Explicit and implicit cognition: A preliminary test of a dual-process theory of cognitive vulnerability. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, 1155–1167. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2006.09.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Haeffel, G. J., Gibb, B. E., Metalsky, G. I., Alloy, L. B., Abramson, L. Y., Hankin, B. L., … Swendsen, J. D. (2008). Measuring cognitive vulnerability to depression: Development and validation of the cognitive style questionnaire. Clinical Psychology Review, 28(5), 824–836. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2007.12.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hankin, B. L., Abramson, L. Y., Miller, N., & Haeffel, G. J. (2004). Cognitive vulnerability-stress theories of depression: Examining affective specificity in the prediction of depression versus anxiety in three prospective studies. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 28(3), 309–345. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:COTR.0000031805.60529.0d.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Harvard, I. O. P. (2018). http://www.iop.harvard.edu/use-social-networking-technology.
- Hayes, A. F. (2018). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis. New York: Guildford Press.Google Scholar
- Internet Live Statistics (2018) http://www.internetlivestats.com/.
- Kramer, A. D., Guillory, J. E., & Hancock, J. T. (2014). Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(24), 8788–8790. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1320040111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Lehart, A., Purcell, K., Smith, A., & Zickuhr, K. (2010). Social media & mobile internet use among teens and young adults. Pew Internet & American Life Project. http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Social-Media-and-Young-Adults.aspx.
- Metalsky, G. I., & Joiner, T. E. (1992). Vulnerability to depressive symptomatology: A prospective test of the diathesis-stress and causal mediation components of the hopelessness theory of depression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 667–675. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.1247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Mezulis, A. H., Hyde, J. S., & Abramson, L. Y. (2006). The developmental origins of cognitive vulnerability to depression: Temperament, parenting, and negative life events in childhood as contributors to negative cognitive style. Developmental Psychology, 42(6), 1012–1025. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16126.96.36.1992.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Statista. (2017). Statista—The statistics portal for market data, market research and market studies. Retrieved December 30, 2017, from, http://www.statista.com/.
- Twenge, J. M., Joiner, T. E., Rogers, M. L., & Martin, G. N. (2018). Increases in depressive symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates among U.S. adolescents after 2010 and links to increased new media screen time. Clinical Psychological Science, 6, 3–17. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167702617723376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- World Health Organization. (2004). The Global Burden of Disease: 2004 Update (Part 3). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/GBD_report_2004.update_full.pdf.