I will share more about how media in general may be bad for our health but today, let’s focus on social media. Hundreds of millions (if not billions) of people use social media daily. It is a way to see what’s going on in the world, keep up with “friends”, co-workers, ex-es, etc. So while we have some free time we login into Facebook or other social media sites and see our connections posting pictures from their vacations, what their kids are doing, food they are eating, witty comments, pictures from weddings and other significant events in life. Almost all these updates are about the fun, good things in life and thanks to apps on most smartphones, the pictures are easily tweaked to make them near perfect.
We may “like” or “re-tweet” or whatever these updates and post a cheery message to boot. But deep down, the social media experience is far from joyous. There may be a bit of jealousy or “woe is me” involved and the affect is often negative. A study done by researchers at the University of Michigan showed us that young adults using Facebook reported a decrease in “well-being”.
“These analyses indicated that Facebook use predicts declines in the two components of subjective well-being: how people feel moment to moment and how satisfied they are with their lives.
Critically, we found no evidence to support two plausible alternative interpretations of these results. First, interacting with other people “directly” did not predict declines in well-being. In fact, direct social network interactions led people to feel better over time. This suggests that Facebook use may constitute a unique form of social network interaction that predicts impoverished well-being. Second, multiple types of evidence indicated that it was not the case that Facebook use led to declines in well-being because people are more likely to use Facebook when they feel bad—neither affect nor worry predicted Facebook use and Facebook use continued to predict significant declines in well-being when controlling for loneliness (which did predict increases in Facebook use and reductions in emotional well-being).”
While the study focused on Facebook use and we can’t extrapolate this to all social media and certainly not all Internet use, the fact remains that we also have other anecdotal views on the negative effects of social media.