We often hear about the negative effects of social media on our wellbeing, but we don''t usually think of it the other way round whereby how we perceive might influence how we use social media. In a recent research, my colleagues and I investigated the relationship between social media use and wellbeing in over 7,000 adults in four years, using survey findings from the longitudinal New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study.
Social media use and happiness both impact each other. Poorer wellbeing specifically led to less psychological distress and decreased life satisfaction, according to reports, increased social media use one year later, and improved social media use caused poorer wellbeing one year later.
A vicious cycle
Social media usage was more affected by wellbeing than the other way around.
One year later, the difference between having no distress and being distressed was dwindling a lot of the time. Among these, the results were significant for men and women across all age groups.
People with poor health may also use social media as a coping mechanism, but this does not seem to be assisting. Unfortunately, and surprisingly, using social media may intensify the feelings and symptoms that someone is hoping to escape.
Increased social media use results in less wellbeing, which in turn increases social media use, exacerbating the existing negative feelings, and so on. This creates a vicious cycle in which individuals seem to be trapped.
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You may use this information to enquire about your relationship with social media.
Reflect on how and why you use social media
Social media isn''t inherently bad, but how and why we use them is very important even more than how much time we spend on social media. For example, using social media to interact with others or for entertainment has been linked to improved happiness, whereas engaging in social media comparisons can be detrimental to health.
Inform your friends and watch funny dog clips on your phone to the fullest of your knowledge, but you cant wait for those comparisons.
Emotional attitudes and body image are significantly reduced than exposure to travel images, according to an experimental study. ten minutes of exposure to fitspiration images (such as slim/toned people posing in exercise clothing or engaging in exercise) caused a much less negative mood and body image in women.
Mindless scrolling is another form of slander. Research claims that passive use of social media is more harmful to the health of individuals than active use (such as talking or interacting with others).
Be aware of how and why you use social media, and how it makes you feel! If most of your activity is under the harmful category, it''s a sign to reduce or modify your use, or even take a break. One 2015 experiment with over 1,000 participants found taking a break from Facebook for one week increased life satisfaction.
Don''t let social media interfere with other activities.
Make sure you''re still doing important things away from your phone that will assist you. Research suggests time spent outdoors, on hobbies or crafts, and engaging in physical activity can help you improve your health.
Put your phone down and organize a picnic with your friends, join a new class, or discover a quiet way to move your body.
Respect your poor wellbeing
It may be helpful to consider your own obiective social media usage as a symptom of how you''re feeling. Perhaps it''s best to identify and address things you''re getting down.
The first, especially crucial step is getting help. A great place to start is when talking to a health professional, such as your general practitioner or a therapist. You may also contact organizations like Beyond Blue and Headspace for evidence-based help.