Approximately 40% of the world’s population uses online social media. Of this number, the average person spends roughly two hours a day using different social platforms.
The large role that social media plays in our lives can’t be denied, but while there are positives to the system, such as enhanced communication with distant friends, there are also negatives. Research shows that social media can have a harmful effect on our wellness and mental health.
Here are just a few ways your scrolling could be impacting your wellbeing:
Mind over matter
A study in the journal ScienceDirect found that people who used Facebook for 20 minutes or more had lower moods compared to those who simple browsed the internet.
The results showed that people felt less happy because they viewed their actions as a waste of time. Researchers from the University of California also found that positive and negative moods can be spread between users on social media.
Anxiety and stress
A study published in Computers and Human Behaviour discovered that people who use 7+ different social media platforms were at least three times as likely as people using up to two platforms to have anxiety and high levels of stress.
Research from the Pew Research Centre in Washington DC found Twitter caused the most stress symptoms in the 1800 people examined, because the quick nature of this platform increased their awareness to other people’s stress.
The selfie craze, combined with the countless amount of filters and photo editing effects that are now part-and-parcel to social media can have a severe impact on self-esteem.
A survey of 1500 people by disability charity Scope revealed that 50% of the people felt inadequate after using social media. Additionally, 50% of the subjects aged between 18 and 34 admitted that social media made them feel unattractive.
A Swedish study by researchers at Gothenburg University found that the women who spent the most time on Facebook felt less confident and happy.
“When Facebook users compare their own lives with others’ seemingly more successful careers and happy relationships, they may feel that their own lives are less successful in comparison,” the researchers found.
There has been plenty of research done on the negative effects of looking at screens before bed. Researchers from the University of Pittsburg narrowed the study down to analyse the connection between sleeping habits and social media usage specifically.
The study, which looked at 1700 people between 18 and 30 years of age, revealed that the habit of logging on to different social media platforms was linked to disruptive sleep. While this signalled “an obsessive checking”, the researchers did not discover a connection between the actual using process and poor sleep.
Isolation and loneliness
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine conducted a survey of 7,000 19- to 32-year-olds, finding that those who spent the most time using social media were twice as likely to feel lonely and lack meaningful interaction with others.
An increase in time spent on social media, compared to face-to-face human engagement can increase feelings of exclusion, the researchers concluded.
“Exposure to such highly idealised representations of peers’ lives may elicit feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier and more successful lives, which may increase perceived social isolation,” they reported.
A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships discovered that people who had conversations with a person who was holding or glancing at their phone felt less close to that person.
Comparatively, those who engaged with others without a phone visible experienced a more meaningful interaction. Researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada focused on romantic relationships specifically, surveying 300 17-24-year-olds about their feelings towards Facebook and their partner.
Participants were asked questions such as: ‘How likely are you to become jealous after your partner has added an unknown member of the opposite sex?’ The results revealed that, in general, women spent more time on Facebook than men and experienced more jealousy as a result. “The Facebook environment created these feelings and enhanced concerns about the quality of their relationship”, the researchers concluded.