This episode of Freakonomics podcast, which published on December 8th, 2022, focuses on studies around mental health and social media with two guests:

Alexey Makarin assistant professor in Applied Economics at M.I.T. Sloan School of Management.

Nina Vasan: professor of psychiatry at Stanford University; founder and executive director of Brainstorm: The Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation; and chief medical officer of Real.

These are the interesting key insights that mentioned in this podcast:

  • When people first start experiencing the symptoms of mental illness to when they actually start officially seeking help within the healthcare system, that amount of time is 11 years. That’s a huge delay. And what it shows is that people are really only seeking help when they’re in crisis.
  • There are a lot of papers that document a significant association between mental health problems and social media use. Most of the results show that people who use Facebook a lot or other social media platforms, they seem to be experiencing worse mental healthBut of course, we know that this is correlation and there are some issues with that. Maybe when I’m depressed, I use social media more. Or it could be that, for instance, if I break up with my girlfriend, then maybe the next day I’m going to be depressed and at the same time, I’m going to have more free time to use, to spend on social media.
  • Alexey says the mental health effect of using Facebook is about one fifth the size of how it feels when you lose your job.
  • One of the ways in which we document that indeed social comparison seems to be a channel is that after the introduction of Facebook, students suddenly believe that the other students consume much more alcohol than they did before. But the actual usage of alcohol did not increase at all. So, students have some naivete about how to interpret the Facebook posts of others. → we living in a bad world and humans are worst
  • They (Pinterest) were looking to understand different patterns and what was driving people to their platform. And what they actually saw was that the fourth most common category of search terms was related to mental health. And it was things like, depression, stress, anxiety.  When people think of Pinterest, they think about things like wedding planning, or interior design, or recipes. Pinterest has not been a place that historically people really talked about, “I want to go address my mental health on this platform.” What Pinterest realized was, “This is something that people are coming to us for. How can we create a space for people to be able to feel, safe and understood?”


Kanfer, Julie. “Is Facebook Bad for Your Mental Health?” Freakonomics (blog). Accessed January 28, 2023.

Personal Analysis:

This topic has generated a great deal of discussion, and this podcast episode is one of the more beneficial ones since it highlights several intriguing points. The most interesting is the first bullet point I wrote above; people find out that using social media makes them depressed, but maybe when they are depressed, they spend more time on social media! One of my assumptions is that we may attribute to social media many of our negative emotions that are not directly caused by social media use. However, the downside of using social media is undeniable.

The third bullet point reminded me that the majority of people feel there are more issues in the world today than in the past and that humans are evil. But maybe now we have more access to information about other areas of the world and negative news can spread more rapidly than ever before.

Lastly, this podcast led me to two professors that conduct research and work in this field, as well as Brainstorm: Stanford’s lab for menta