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The Facebook Effect: How Is Social Media Impacting Your Stress Levels?

The perfect wedding, a newly-purchased home, a swanky new job — how many times have you been scrolling through social media only to be bombarded by everyone else's seemingly perfect life?

You're not alone if you're one of the many social media users who get stressed out when checking the various platforms available. Today, 7 in 10 Americans use social media. On social media you're not only surrounded by the ongoings of others' perfectly curated lives, but you're also a witness to political arguments and rants about who-knows-what.

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Amidst the noise, social media users are finding themselves more stressed than ever from their time spent on sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And it's leading to serious mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.

The potential causes of social media-induced stress range from misinformation about current news to the "fear of missing out" (FOMO) on group gatherings you're not a part of. But don't go deleting all of your social media accounts just yet. Not only are there ways to prevent some of these downfalls, but there may also be some upsides that you don't know about.

Here's what you should know about how social media can impact your stress levels — and how you can stay in the social media loop without it bringing you down.

The Causes of Social Media-Induced Stress

When your alarm goes off in the morning, what's the first thing you do? If you're like many Americans, your cell phone serves as your alarm clock. Conveniently, this little device is also home to apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — so the temptation to scroll through social media is there to greet you right off the bat.

Maybe it's not your first activity of the day, but if you're like most social media users, it's a part of your daily routine. About 75% of Facebook users check the site at least once a day, and about 60% of Instagram users do the same.

Once you start scrolling, there are many potential reasons you might leave your social media site feeling a little more stressed than before. And if left unchecked, this stress can grow into more serious concerns, such as anxiety and depression.

The "Perfect" Lives of Others

In the era of editing photos, it's easy to make it look like you have a perfect life, full of happy relationships, travel, babies, and a successful career. As a result, it's common to feel like you're being left behind or that others are happier than you are.

What you may not realize is how curated the lives of the people you follow are, down to choosing the "right" pictures to post and even editing them to look perfect. In fact, 64% of people admit to editing the photos they post online.

Beyond just witnessing the picture-perfect lives of strangers, some social media users also experience FOMO when they see their friends posting about events that they're not a part of.

Information — and Misinformation — Overflow

In 2016, the Oxford Dictionary word of the year was "post-truth," which refers to the idea that objective facts are less influential than appeals to emotion or personal beliefs. What does this mean? People, especially on social media, sometimes seek out — and share — information that they already believe over the facts.

Nearly 1 out of 4 people say they've shared a fake political news story, and some say they've done so on purpose. It's natural if you're a little stressed about what's real, what's not, and how potential misinformation factors into your life.

The information that's shared on social media can also lead to arguments. For instance, 37% of social media users say they feel worn out by the political content they see. Even more, many users feel stressed out or frustrated when they see views that oppose their own.

Are There Any Benefits to Using Social Media?

There's a reason the majority of Americans use social media sites — they like them. And there are plenty of reasons for that.

Some benefits of social media sites include:
  • Staying in touch with friends and family
  • Reconnecting with long-lost acquaintances
  • Building friendships and, sometimes, romantic relationships
  • Taking part in civic and political activities, such as petitions
  • Getting and sharing important information, such as health news or scientific information
  • Staying informed about the current news

Thanks to social media, you can stay in touch with a friend you met abroad or learn about the latest-and-greatest restaurant down the street. All it takes is a simple friend request, retweet, or like.

The entire concept of social media is centered around community-building. And with millions of members in the community, there are many positive opportunities to engage with other users.

How to Maintain a Balance — and Peace of Mind

Whether you enjoy it or it causes you stress, social media is not going away. For many stressed-out social media users, their knee jerk reaction is to completely unplug. If that works for you, great! Even a temporary break from social media can ease the stress temporarily.

However, completely abandoning social media may not be realistic long-term — and you might find yourself wanting to re-engage in a healthy way.

Ways to manage your stress levels from social media include:
  • Keep in mind what people are not posting, from break-ups to job losses to not-so-flattering photos.
  • Pay attention to your feelings as you scroll. By acknowledging that you feel a little jealous, it can help you overcome that feeling a little easier.
  • Limit the time you spend on social media by setting screen time limits for certain apps or keeping a log in your notes.
  • Fact-check your news with a few news outlets you trust.
  • Know when to disengage from a tense argument and agree to disagree. 

Social media is not the enemy, and it's largely up to you how you digest the information you see as you scroll. Take advantage of the aspects of social media that are particularly important to you.

Remember, if you're feeling a little stressed, take a break. Put the phone down — and enjoy the life that's right in front of you.

Do you have questions about managing your social media-related stress? Call 610-738-2300 to find a primary care provider near you.

 

 

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About this Blog

Chester County Hospital's Health e-Living Blog offers a regular serving of useful health and lifestyle information for the residents of Chester County, PA and the surrounding region.

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