Is social media bad for you?

Whenever I turn on the TV, read articles from my favourite news outlets or switch on the radio, I am constantly reminded that social networking sites are villains and us, the public are being drained of personal information, positive wellbeing and internal prosperity.

Much research concerns itself with the impact social media platforms have on our children’s mental wellbeing. A recent article by the BBC claimed over 40% of the world’s population use social media. That’s 3 billion users across Facebook, Twitter & Snapchat, among others. Social media now plays a huge part of our day to day lives but could we be sacrificing our mental health in anticipation of our witty and politically correct post being retweeted?

The platforms listed above allow people to comment and vent about their delayed train on their morning commute to their opinions on the POTUS. The downside of this, is the almost endless streams of stress appearing on your timeline, which in turn will increase stress levels. Pew Research Center based in Washington DC found that Twitter was a significant contributor in elevated stress levels as it increased awareness of other people’s stress. Contradictory research actually claims platforms such as Twitter can act as a coping mechanism when stressed. Women were found to be benefitting from lower stress levels when venting on social media.

Positive and negative mood can spread like wildfire on social media. For example, when the weather is miserable, the amount of negative posts increase by 1%. The University of California assessed emotional content from over 1 billion Facebook posts and concluded you are around twice as likely to post a happy post if someone has shared some good news online. If someone shares a negative post, you are 1.3 times more likely to post something negative.

The Journal of Computers and Human Behaviour claim users using more than seven social media platforms are three times more likely to suffer from anxiety. However newer research has now proposed that it may in fact be ‘social anxiety’ as opposed to anxiety caused by social media which is being used as data. I completely sign up with this school of thought. If networking causes Mr A anxiety, spending so much time on social media probably isn’t the best idea.

It’s clear this topic is hot within both the research community and in public opinion. More research will continuously better our understanding of the effects and benefits social media have on their users. Do I believe social media is bad? To universally say it’s bad would be wrong. Many people benefit from social media. However too much of one thing, excessive use and addiction have detrimental consequences for our health and wellbeing.

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