This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
Social media has become increasingly embedded in our daily lives, offering new opportunities for connection and sharing information. While social media can offer many benefits, it may come at a cost.
In this article, we will discuss the impact of social media on our feelings of happiness and well-being, and how to move towards a healthier relationship with social media.
For more articles and information on happiness, visit BetterHelp.
How Does Social Media Affect Our Happiness?
Various studies have found a link between social media and increased symptoms of anxiety, depression, and decreased levels of self-esteem. One 2021 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies set out to determine exactly how social media affects our mood. They noted participants’ use of three social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) over ten days and gauged their perceived level of well-being in three areas: positive affect, negative affect and life satisfaction. Researchers found a clear link between more frequent social media use and decreased well-being. While positive affect and life satisfaction remained stable, there was an increase in negative affect. They believe that this is likely due to what is known as social comparison, which is what happens when we compare our lives to others we see on social media.
Other studies noted additional reasons for the link between social media and negative mood. Along with comparing our mundane day to day to the ‘highlight reels’ of others, we are also exposed to a constant flood of news headlines, threads with heated debates and nasty comments, and controversial content. The content we are rapidly consuming can contribute to negative emotions and increased stress.
Therefore, one might assume that cutting out social media entirely would lead to an increase in levels of happiness. However, another recent study did not find this to be the case. After several weeks of abstinence from social media, there did not seem to be a significant change in participants’ mood. While eliminating social media may not make us feel better, experts are starting to think that how we engage with social media is the central factor in how it influences our happiness.
While there are some ways of utilizing social media that promote connection, many of us fall into what is known as ‘passive use.’ When all we do is scroll through others’ perfectly curated photographs and posts on Facebook and Instagram, we end up comparing much more than we are interacting. This can contribute to harmful effects on well-being such as reduced self-esteem and negative mood. Experts suggest paying attention to how we are using social media and making an intentional effort to engage in more active use- which can increase our sense of connectedness with others.
3 Tips for Cultivating a Healthier Relationship with Social Media
1. Notice how social media use may be affecting you. The first step towards fostering a healthier relationship with social media is to gain awareness into how it may be impacting you on a daily basis. As you spend time on social media, take a moment to stop and reflect on how you feel. Are your anxiety levels rising as you are bombarded with news headlines on Twitter? Did you find yourself comparing your achievements or appearance to those you follow on Instagram? Understanding how social media may be affecting you can help you to make necessary changes to prioritize your well-being.
2. Be intentional about which social media platforms you use and when you engage with them. If you notice that a particular social media platform causes continual distress or negative feelings, you might consider focusing on another one that does not seem to have the same effect. It’s also important to pay attention to what content you see on social media, and unfriend or unfollow any account that fuels negative thoughts or emotions. You might also consider limiting your social media by turning off notifications and setting specific boundaries around how often you will log on.
3. Aim for more active use on social media. As we now know that how we use social media is crucial to determining its effects, think about how you might move from passive scrolling to active engagement. Instead of wading through a sea of posts, maybe you use that time on social media to message a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while or join a community that could help you to connect with those who share similar interests. Using social media to develop and strengthen social connections can contribute to increased levels of happiness.