A recent study by Ndera Neuro-Psychiatric Teaching Hospital found a significant increase in the number of depression cases, placing the illness among the top five recorded mental illnesses. According to the study, the number of admitted patients had quadrupled, and the majority of new cases were middle-aged people between the ages of 20 and 39. An interesting observation however was that majority of effort to raise awareness about depression and overall mental well-being was done through social media platforms, while the research also indicated ‘addiction to social media’ as one of the major causes of depression in Rwanda. This hence begs the question as to whether social media is a tool for or against depression, and also, if the increase in the number of patients admitted was truly due to an increase in depression cases among the age group, or an increase in the number of people seeking help as a result of the recently enforced awareness about the topic. Depression is a mood disorder characterised by a persistent sense of sadness and loss of interest. Experts agree that, indeed, social media could be a tool for and against depression. Social media has proven to be an effective tool for communication, information access, and social support. However, various studies have shown that it can have a negative impact on mental health, with links to depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. People’s lives have become increasingly reliant on social media. According to recent data, more than 80% of smartphone owners use social media to stay up to date with friends, favourite celebrities, global events, and a variety of other topics. Furthermore, nearly 4 billion people worldwide use social media platforms such as Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram. According to Dr Cindi Cassady, a clinical psychologist, the key thing to look at is not the use of social media, but rather, whether it is ‘overused’ or not. “Disrupted and delayed sleep due to long use of social media, peer pressure, cyberbullying and/or self-hate that result from comparing oneself with people they see on social media, etc, are all some of the indicators of when social media become harmful,” she said. Unregulated social media use leads to a constant fear of missing out, which is referred to as FOMO, she noted. FOMO often leads to lowered self-esteem and causes mental health issues. Despite its drawbacks, social media remains an efficient means of connecting communities and individuals across the world. Experts note that through social media, people who struggle with social skills and anxiety find a way to connect, socialise and express themselves. Social media platforms have proven particularly advantageous for marginalised groups, enabling them to meet and interact with other like-minded individuals. For example, there have been instances of people who have been subject to violence and abuse, who came together, formed safe spaces to talk about what they are facing, and provided mutual support. Social media can also be useful when accessing online mental wellness services, or joining and promoting worthwhile causes and raising awareness on important issues. While the relevance and necessity of social media in people’s daily lives have grown to be almost inevitable, it is important to learn how to use it safely. By, among other things, maintaining privacy, setting time limits and restricting use, and taking intentional breaks from social media.