There’s rather a lot to suggest that social media isn’t very good for our general wellbeing. For instance, it’s widely believed that we aren’t especially honest when we share things on Facebook, and this curation leads us to portray ourselves in as good a light as possible. Now that’s great, except everyone else does too, and there glistening fakery thus makes us feel rather bad about ourselves.
So the theory goes anyway. A recent report published in partnership by Rutgers University and the Pew Research Center suggests the picture tends to be a little bit more nuanced that that.
Indeed, the researchers go as far as to suggest that social media doesn’t really stress us out at all.
“There is no evidence in our data that social media users feel more stress than people who use digital technologies less or not at all,” the authors say.
This becomes even more nuanced when you look at the gender of social media users. The results suggest that male social networkers were generally no more stressed than their non-Facebooking peers.
Women however, were generally less stressed the more active they were. So a woman who’s a regular Twitter users for instance, was on average 21 percent less stressed than a digitally disconnected peer.
Interestingly, the results suggest the only time social networking actually increases our stress levels is when it brings us into contact with stressful events. So you may, for instance, be made aware of something stressful happening in the life of a friend via Facebook, which in turn makes you stressful.
“Facebook was the one technology that, for both men and women, provides higher levels of awareness of stressful events taking place in the lives of both close and more distant acquaintances,” the authors say.
Social networks are generally pretty good at doing this, with the average user being made aware of 13 percent more stressful events due to their membership of sites like Facebook.
It’s an interesting finding, not least because it contrasts so heavily with previous research on the topic. For instance, a recent study highlighted the anxiety Facebook causes by constantly forcing us to compare ourselves with our peers.
This would not only cause us stress but harm our self-esteem levels too. Is the Pew/Rutger study enough to counter this general zeitgeist? I’m not so sure. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.