Is Social Media Bad For You? The Evidence and the Unknowns (2023)

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Is social media bad for you? The evidence and the unknowns

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Is Social Media Bad For You? The Evidence and the Unknowns (1)

By Jessica BrownJanuary 5, 2018

What science suggests so far about the impact of platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram on your mental well-being.

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A special series on social media and well-being

This month, BBC Future explores the impact of social media on mental health and well-being and looks at solutions for a happier, healthier experience on these platforms. stay tuned formore stories, Coming soon…

Share your tips for a happy life on social media using the hashtag #LikeMinded on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

(Video) Why social media is Unhealthy for You

This story appears in BBC Future's "Best of 2018" collection.Discover more of our selections.

three billion peopleAround 40% of the world's population uses online social media, and we're spending an average oftwo hours every dayshare, like, tweet and update on these platforms, according to some reports. This breaks down to aboutHalf a million tweets and Snapchat photos shared every minute.

With social media playing such an important role in our lives, could we be sacrificing our mental health and well-being as well as our time? What does the evidence really suggest?

  • Is it time to rethink how we use social media? An introduction to our #LikeMinded season

As social networks are relatively new to us, conclusive findings are limited. The research that does exist is mostly based on self-report, which can often be flawed, with most studies focusing on Facebook. That said, this is a rapidly growing area of ​​research and leads are starting to emerge. BBC Future has reviewed the findings of some of the sciences so far:


People use social media to vent about everything from customer service to politics, but the downside to that is that our feeds often resemble an endless stream of stress. In 2015, researchers at the Washington, DC-based Pew Research Center set out to find out whether social media causes more stress than it alleviates.

NovoteOut of 1,800 people, women reported being more stressed than men. Twitter was considered a "significant contributor" because it increased awareness of other people's stress.

But Twitter also acted as a coping mechanism, and the more women used it, the less stressed they became. The same effect was not found for men, who the researchers found to have a more distant relationship with social media. Overall, the researchers concluded that social media use was associated with "moderately lower levels" of stress.

Is Social Media Bad For You? The Evidence and the Unknowns (3)

Having a phone affects conversation quality, some studies suggest (Credit: Getty Images)


Em 2014,researchersin Austria found that participants reported lower mood after using Facebook for 20 minutes compared to those who just browsed the Internet. The study suggested that people felt this way because they saw it as a waste of time.

A good or bad mood can also spread among people on social media, according toresearchers at the University of California, which evaluated the emotional content of more than 1 billion status updates from more than 100 million Facebook users between 2009 and 2012.

Bad weather increased the number of negative posts by 1%, and the researchers found that one negative post from someone in a rainy city influenced another 1.3 negative posts from friends who live in dry cities. The better news is that happy posts had a stronger influence; each inspired another 1.75 happy posts. However, it remains unclear whether a happy post translates into an actual mood boost.


Researchers looked at general anxiety caused by social media, characterized by feelings of restlessness and worry, as well as trouble sleeping and concentrating. ANto studypublished in the journal Computers and Human Behavior found that people reporting using seven or more social media platforms were more than three times more likely than people using platforms 0-2 to have high levels of general anxiety symptoms.

That said, it's unclear if and how social media causes anxiety.researchersfrom Babes-Bolyai University in Romania reviewed existing research on the relationship between social anxiety and social media in 2016, saying the results were mixed. They concluded that more research needs to be done.

Is Social Media Bad For You? The Evidence and the Unknowns (4)

Social media mimics many of the rewards of gambling and gambling, which can be an attractive lure (Credit: Getty Images)

(Video) What if Social Media didn't exist


While some studies have found a link between depression and social media use, there is emerging research on how social media can be a force for good.

Of thestudiesInvolving more than 700 students, depressive symptoms, such as bad mood and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, were related to the quality of online interactions. The researchers found higher levels of depressive symptoms among those who reported having more negative interactions.

A similar studyconducted in 2016 with 1,700 people, found a triple risk of depression and anxiety among people who used the most social media platforms. Reasons for this, they suggested, include cyberbullying, having a skewed view of other people's lives, and feeling that time spent on social media is a waste.

However, as BBC Future will be exploring this month in our #LikeMinded season, scientists are also looking at how social media can be used to diagnose depression, which could help people get treatment sooner.researchersfor Microsoft surveyed 476 people and analyzed their Twitter profiles for depressive language, linguistic style, engagement, and emotion. From this, they developed a classifier that can accurately predict depression before it causes symptoms in seven out of 10 cases.

Researchers at Harvard and Vermont Universitiesanalyzed166 photos of people on Instagram to create a similar tool last year with the same success rate.


Humans used to spend their nights in the dark, but now we are surrounded by artificial lighting day and night.The research foundthat this can inhibit the body's production of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, with blue light, emitted from smartphone and laptop screens, thought to be the worst culprit. In other words, if you lie on your pillow at night checking Facebook and Twitter, you will have restless sleep.

Last year,University of Pittsburgh researchers asked1,700 young people aged between 18 and 30 about their social media and sleep habits. They found a link to sleep disturbances and concluded that blue light had a role to play. How often they logged on, rather than time spent on social networking sites, was a greater predictor of sleep disturbance, suggesting "obsessive checking," the researchers said.

Researchers say this could be due to physiological arousal before sleep, and the bright lights from our devices can delay circadian rhythms. But they couldn't clarify whether social media causes sleep disturbances or whether those with sleep disorders spend more time on social media.

Is Social Media Bad For You? The Evidence and the Unknowns (5)

One of the worst times to use social media can be before bed (Credit: Getty Images)


Despite the argument of some researchers that tweeting can beharder to resistLike cigarettes and alcohol, social media addiction is not included in the most recent diagnostic manual for mental health disorders.

That said, social media is changing faster than scientists can keep up with it, so several groups are trying to study compulsive behaviors related to its use, for example scientists from the Netherlands.They invented their own scaleidentify possible defects.


And if there is social media addiction, it would be a type of internet addiction, and thatesa classified disorder. In 2011, Daria Kuss and Mark Griffiths from Nottingham Trent University in the UKanalyzed43 previous studies on the subject, and conclude that social media addiction is a mental health issue that "may" require professional treatment. They found that overuse was linked to relationship problems, worse academic performance and lower participation in offline communities, and found that those who may be more vulnerable to social media addiction include alcohol addicts, highly extroverts and those who use social networks. . to compensate for fewer ties in real life.


Women's magazines and their use of underweight and Photoshopped models have long been maligned for raising self-esteem issues among young women. But now, social media, with its smart filters, lighting and angles, is becoming a bigger concern among some campaign groups and charities.

Social networking sites make more than half of users feel inadequate, according to a studyvoteof 1,500 people from the charity Scope, and half of 18- to 34-year-olds say it makes them feel unattractive.

A 2016 studyby researchers at Pennsylvania State University suggested that viewing other people's selfies lowered self-esteem because users compare themselves to photos of people who seem happier.Searchfrom the University of Strathclyde, Ohio University and the University of Iowa also found that women negatively compare themselves to other women's selfies.

Is Social Media Bad For You? The Evidence and the Unknowns (6)

Selfies can have disadvantages for the viewer (Credit: Getty Images)

But it's not just selfies that have the potential to damage self-esteem. ANto studyof 1,000 Swedish Facebook users found that women who spent more time on Facebook reported feeling less happy and less confident. The researchers concluded, "When Facebook users compare their own lives to the seemingly more successful careers and happy relationships of others, they may feel that their own lives are less successful in comparison."

But one small study suggested that viewing your own profile, not someone else's, can boost your ego.researchersat Cornell University in New York, placed 63 students in different groups. Some sat with a mirror against their computer screen, for example, while others sat in front of their own Facebook profile.

Facebook had a positive effect on self-esteem compared to other activities that increase self-awareness. Mirrors and photos, the researchers explained, make us compare ourselves to social standards, while looking at our own Facebook profiles can boost self-esteem because it's easier to control how we present ourselves to the world.


on ato studyStarting in 2013, researchers texted 79 participants five times a day for 14 days, asking them how they were feeling and how much they had used Facebook since their last message. The longer people spent on the site, the worse they felt afterwards, and the more their life satisfaction declined over time.

But other research has found that, for some people, social media can help.increase your well-being. Marketing researchers Jonah Berger and Eva Buechel found that emotionally unstable people are more likely to post about their emotions, which can help them gain support and bounce back from negative experiences.

In general, the effects of social networks on well-being are mixed, according to a studywritten paperlast year by researchers from the Netherlands. However, they suggested that there is clearer evidence of the impact on a group of people: social media has a more negative effect on the well-being of those who are more socially isolated.

Is Social Media Bad For You? The Evidence and the Unknowns (7)

In some cases, social media can improve well-being (Credit: Getty Images)


If you've ever caught up with a friend who picked up their phone to browse Instagram, you might have wondered what social media is doing to relationships.

Even the simple presence of a phone can interfere with our interactions, especially when we are talking about something meaningful, according toa small studio.Researchers writing in the Journal of Social and Personal Relations asked 34 pairs of strangers to have a 10-minute conversation about an interesting event that had happened to them recently. Each couple sat in private booths and half had a cell phone on the table.

Those with a phone in sight were less positive when recalling their subsequent interaction, had less meaningful conversations, and reported feeling less close to their partners than others who had a notebook on the table instead.

Romantic relationships aren't immune either.researchersfrom the University of Guelph in Canada surveyed 300 people aged 17 to 24 in 2009 about the jealousy they felt when they were on Facebook, asking questions such as: 'How likely are you to be jealous after your partner added to an unknown member of the opposite sex? ?'.

Women spent much more time on Facebook than men and felt much more jealousy while doing so. The researchers concluded that they "felt that the Facebook environment created these feelings and heightened concerns about the quality of their relationship."

(Video) Why Instagram is Harmful
Is Social Media Bad For You? The Evidence and the Unknowns (8)

In a survey of 1,800 people, women reported being more stressed by social media than men (Credit: Getty Images)


on astudy involvingOf 600 adults, about a third said that social media made them feel negative emotions, mostly frustration, with envy being the main cause. This was triggered by comparing their lives to others, the biggest culprit being other people's travel photos. Feeling envy triggered an "envy spiral," where people reacted to envy by adding more of the same type of content that made them jealous to their profiles.

However, envy is not necessarily a destructive emotion, it can often make us work harder,according to researchersfrom the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. They asked 380 students to look at "envy-inducing" photos and texts from Facebook and Twitter, including posts about buying expensive items, traveling and getting engaged. But the type of envy the researchers found is "benign envy," which they say is more likely to make a person work harder.


ANpublished studyin the American Journal of Preventive Medicine last year surveyed 7,000 people ages 19 to 32 and found that those who spend the most time on social media were twice as likely to report social isolation, which can include poor social sense. . belonging, commitment to others, and satisfying relationships.

Spending more time on social media, the researchers said, can disrupt face-to-face interaction and also make people feel left out.

"Exposure to such idealized representations of peers' lives can lead to feelings of envy and a distorted belief that others lead happier, more successful lives, which can increase perceptions of social isolation."


Of course, in many areas, not enough is known yet to draw very strong conclusions. However, the evidence points in one direction: social media affects people differently based on pre-existing conditions and personality traits.

As with food, gambling, and many other temptations of the modern age, excessive use is probably not advisable for some people. But at the same time, it would be wrong to say that social media is universally bad because it clearly brings so many benefits to our lives.

We'll explore this tension further next month in a series of articles and videos in our special #LikeMinded series, and look forward to providing solutions that can help all of us live happier, healthier digital lives.

Join over 800,000 future fans by liking us onFacebook, or follow usGore.

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(Video) Is Social Media Good or Bad?


Is social media Harmful evidence? ›

Since it's a relatively new technology, there's little research to establish the long-term consequences, good or bad, of social media use. However, multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts.

What are 3 reasons why social media is bad? ›

Social media harms

However, social media use can also negatively affect teens, distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people's lives and peer pressure.

Why social media is bad arguments? ›

Opponents of social networking say that the sites prevent face-to-face communication; waste time on frivolous activity; alter children's brains and behavior making them more prone to ADHD; expose users to predators like pedophiles and burglars; and spread false and potentially dangerous information.

What are some bad facts about social media? ›

Spending more than 3 hours on social media per day puts adolescents at a higher risk for mental health problems. 13% of kids ages 12-17 report depression and 32% report anxiety. 25% of 18 to 25-year-olds report mental illness. These age groups report high usage of social media.

What are 5 negatives of social media? ›

Cons: Why is social media bad?
  • Online vs Reality. Social media itself is not the problem. ...
  • Increased usage. The more time spent on social media can lead to cyberbullying, social anxiety, depression, and exposure to content that is not age appropriate.
  • Social Media is addicting. ...
  • Fear of Missing Out. ...
  • Self-image issues.

What does social media do to your brain? ›

Researchers believe that since social media competes for your attention with the promise of continuous new content, heavy social media users become less able to ignore distraction in general, which leads to poorer cognitive performance and shrinks parts of the brain associated with maintaining concentration.

Should social media be used as evidence? ›

Yes, in many cases, your social media posts can be used as evidence against you in a criminal case. However, there are ways to protect yourself. Limiting what you post could prevent the prosecutor from finding incriminating content.

Is social media hearsay evidence? ›

Most of the information attorneys will seek to admit from social media websites (other than photographs) will qualify as 'out- of-court' statements potentially subject to the hearsay rule.

How is social media harmful essay? ›

It is harmful because it invades your privacy like never before. The oversharing happening on social media makes children a target for predators and hackers. It also leads to cyberbullying which affects any person significantly. Thus, the sharing on social media especially by children must be monitored at all times.


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