It’s estimated that there are now 3.5 billion social media users worldwide. Social media has transformed the way we communicate, shop, and entertain ourselves.
However, in recent years, numerous studies have pointed out that it could have a damaging effect on our mental health and emotional well-being. And, there are fears that these issues could become even worse in the current pandemic.
Furthermore, in a new study, researchers from the University of British Columbia Okanagan have looked into the effects these platforms have on consumers’ overall happiness levels.
What does the study suggest?
In the 10-day study, researchers examined specific aspects of social media and the effects they have. They surveyed the participants about the way they used their major social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
They were surveyed at random and asked questions about their habits on social media, such as how often they posted updates or pictures, how often they sent messages to family and friends, and how much time they spent scrolling through their news feed.
They found the endless scrolling, in particular, evoked negative emotions in users. In addition to this, when consumers looked at shared posts, pictures, or videos posted by friends and relatives, they began to make comparisons with their own lives. This also resulted in an increase in negative emotions and lower levels of happiness.
Researcher Derrick Wirtz noted, “Social network sites are an integral part of everyday life for many people around the world. Every day, billions of people interact with social media. Yet the widespread use of social network sites stand in sharp contrast to a comparatively small body of research on how this use impacts a person’s happiness.”
What’s the solution?
The key takeaway from the study was that mindless scrolling was the largest contributor to the well-being of participants. This type of social media use doesn’t require any direct connection with others, which can often lead to comparisons being made to other people.
“Viewing images and updates that selectively portray others positively may lead social media users to underestimate how much others actually experience negative emotions and lead people to conclude that their own life — with its mix of positive and negative feelings — is, by comparison, not as good,” Wirtz said.
Plus, spending lots of time on social media can be damaging. The researchers aren’t encouraging people to quit their social media altogether. But, it can be beneficial to reduce the amount of time spent on them, and to change the way they are used.
Using social media for the more social aspects and prioritising real-life connections can be beneficial and it can help users stay in touch, which is particularly important in difficult times.
“If we all remember to do that, the negative impact of social media use could be reduced — and social network sites could even have the potential to improve our well-being and happiness,” said Wirtz. “In other words, we need to remember how we use social media has the potential to shape the effects on our day-to-day happiness.