The role of social media in schizophrenia: evaluating risks, benefits, and potential.

Date Published:

2016 May


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Patients with schizophrenia suffer from numerous social problems often because of negative symptoms of the illness and impairments in social cognition. Social media and social networks now offer a novel tool to engage and help patients navigate and potentially improve social functioning. In this review, we aim to explore how impaired neural networks in schizophrenia impair social functioning, examine the evidence base for social networks and social media to help in the role, consider the evidence for current risks and benefits of use, and discuss the future of social media and social networks for schizophrenia. RECENT FINDINGS: Patients with schizophrenia are increasingly connected to and engaged with social media. There is strong evidence that they own, use, and accept digital tools like smartphones and already use social media services like Facebook at high rates, especially among those who are younger. Less is known about the clinical risks and benefits of social media use in schizophrenia, although there are increasingly more social networking platforms being designed specifically for those with mental illness. SUMMARY: Social media tools have the potential to offer a plethora of new services to patients with schizophrenia, although the clinical evidence base for such is still nascent. It is important to ensure that both clinicians and patients are aware of and educated about the risks of using social media. Going forward, it is likely that social media will have an expanding role in care, with social media offering new pathways to address negative symptoms and impairments in social cognition in schizophrenia.