American Psychological Association (APA) released a report on February 23, signifying the role of social media use and its relation with stress in American population.
A total of 3,311 adults participated in a survey conducted online across the US between 5th August and 31st August 2015.
The findings of the survey show a significant association between stress levels and frequently of social media use amongst Americans.
In the participating population, 1,306 people were millennials (aging between 18 and 37 years), 746 were Gen Xers (aging between 38 and 51 years), 1,194 were baby boomers (aging between 52 and 70 years) and 265 were matures (aging 71 years and above).
Amongst these participants, 2,391 didn’t have children, 1,120 were parents to children, of which 303 were parents to teenagers.
When the frequently of social media connectivity was reported, it was observed that 1,807 people constantly checked their social media, 1,704 did not constantly check their social media and only 283 people were stratified as people who checked work-related emails on a holiday.
Social Media: Impacting Lives And Mental Health
In the last decade, social media has become a significant part of our daily lives. Improving technology and easy access to smartphones has made it all the more convenient.
Over 86% American adults check their social media accounts, emails and texts regularly.
Previously, in various studies, experts have related excessive use of social media with adverse effect on mental health. Although, social media has emerged as a powerful tool to stay connected with what goes around the world, it has changed the way we communicate with people around us. This in turn has disrupted our social-interaction framework.
With social media, we are just a click away from peeping into other people’s personal life details. From Facebook to Instagram and Snapchat; we are constantly being updated on what’s happening in the lives of others.
The fear of missing out (FOMO) updates on social media makes many people anxious and they feel this constant urge to peep into their smartphone screens and log into their social media accounts to know what happened while they were away.
Though this might be enjoyable, it leaves adverse effects on us.
Feeling envious of others, comparing your life with them, wishing to live someone else’s life and ending up having low self-esteem are some prominent negative effects of social media. When we share our own life highlights on social media, the moment passes away and we forget to ‘live’ in it.
For many, their enjoyment means sharing everything on social media and if they don’t do so, they develop a sense of emptiness and sadness.
Social media is turning us into superficial beings and we are acting as willing slaves of technology.
And for others, social media presence is just another excuse for not interacting with people in person, which seriously harms their interpersonal communications skill. In real-time interactions, these people who are more confortable communicating with other over social media, fail to connect with their friends and family at a more human level which leaves them at odds with the real world.
Stress Levels Are Higher In Those Who Constantly Check Their Social Media
With this survey, the adverse effects of social media have been further reiterated and experts at the APA believe that high frequency of checking social media is linked with increased stress levels.
It was found that people who constantly checked their texts, emails and social media accounts, scored high on stress scale when compared to those who did not.
On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 indicated highest degree of stress, the ‘constant checkers’ of social media on an average scored 5.3 while those who didn’t got a 4.4.
Of the checkers, 42% reported that cultural and political discussions caused stress to them.
Interestingly enough, people who constantly checked their social media accounts agreed that it has a negative influence on their health. 65% of the participants said that it was important for them to detach themselves from social media for digital detoxification but only 28% could challenge their habit.
Another striking observation was made which signified the impact of checking work-related emails on days off from work for employed participants. These employees reported to have highest stress levels which corresponded to a value of 6.0 at the stress scale on an average.
The survey also recorded the increasing influence of social media on the lives of teenagers and how the parents struggle to alter the social media usage habits of their children.
Of the participating parents, 94% agreed that they take at least one measure to limit social media use of their children. These efforts included not allowing smartphone use on dining table and during bedtime.
Majority of parents claimed that their children’s social media use influenced their relationship with the parents and they felt disconnected from them. The parents also worried about managing the screen time for their children and the impact on their health.
\In this regard, Dr Lynn Bufka, associate executive director of practice research and policy at the APA said, “Taking a digital detox is one of the most helpful ways to manage stress related to technology use. Constant checkers could benefit from limiting their use of technology and presence on social media. Adults, and particularly parents, should strive to set a good example for children when it comes to a healthy relationship with technology.”