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How Social Networking Keeps People Healthy

Have you ever wanted to tell someone about a tough day at work or scary medical news, but felt nervous about calling a friend to share what’s going on?

Findings from a new study suggest that people who feel apprehensive about one-on-one interactions are taking advantage of a new form of communication that may help regulate emotions during times of need: online social networks. The study is available online in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

“When people feel badly, they have a need to reach out to others because this can help reduce negative emotions and restore a sense of well-being,” says Eva Buechel, a professor in the business school at the University of South Carolina. “But talking to someone face-to-face or on the phone might feel daunting because people may worry that they are bothering them. Sharing a status update on Facebook or tweet on Twitter allows people to reach out to a large audience in a more undirected manner.”

Sharing short messages to an audience on a social network, called microblogging, allows people to reach out without imposing unwanted communication on someone who might feel obligated to respond. Responses on online social networks are more voluntary. To test whether people are more likely to microblog when they feel socially apprehensive, Buechel asked participants in one group to write about a time when they had no one to talk to at a party, while the control group wrote about office products.

Then she asked the participants who had an online social network account to log in and spend two minutes on their preferred social network. When the time ended, she asked people if they had microblogged. The results showed that those who had been led to feel socially apprehensive were more likely to microblog.

To explore who is more likely to microblog, Buechel conducted another experiment in which one group of participants watched a clip from the movie “Silence of the Lambs,” while the control group watched clips of pictures from space. Then they answered questions about how likely they were to express themselves in three different forms of communication: microblogging, in person or direct message (a private online message to an individual). Finally, she asked people to answer a series of questions that measured their level of social anxiety in a variety of situations.

Buechel discovered that people who were higher on the social apprehension scale were more likely to microblog after they had experienced negative emotions (as a result of watching the “Silence of The Lambs” clip). People who were low on the social apprehension scale, however, were more interested in sharing face-to-face or via direct message after watching the scary clip.

“There is a lot of research showing that sharing online is less ideal than having communication in person, but these social networks could be an important communication channel for certain individuals who would otherwise stay isolated,” she says.

She acknowledges that there is a danger for those who start to rely on social media as their only form of communication, but when used wisely, microblogging can be a valuable means of buffering negative emotions though social interaction.

Story Source:
Materials provided by Society for Consumer Psychology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.   
December 11, 2017
Journal Reference:
Eva Buechel et al. Microblogging and the Value of Undirected Communication Authors. Journal of Consumer Psychology, December 2017 DOI: 10.1002/jcpy.1013
 


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This Social Media Behaviour Triples Depression Risk

Depression and anxiety risk much higher in some people using social media.

Using over seven different social media platforms is linked to a tripling in depression risk, psychological research finds.

The study asked about the 11 most popular social media platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.

Those who used between 7 and 11 of these, had 3.1 times the depression risk.

They also had 3.3 times the risk of having high levels of anxiety symptoms.

Professor Brian A. Primack, who led the study, said:

“This association is strong enough that clinicians could consider asking their patients with depression and anxiety about multiple platform use and counseling them that this use may be related to their symptoms.
While we can’t tell from this study whether depressed and anxious people seek out multiple platforms or whether something about using multiple platforms can lead to depression and anxiety, in either case the results are potentially valuable.”

There are a number of ways in which using multiple platforms might lead to depression and anxiety, the authors argue:

  • Multitasking is known to lead to poor mental health and weakened thinking skills.
  • Using more platforms might lead to more opportunities for embarrassing mistakes.

Professor Primack said:

“It may be that people who suffer from symptoms of depression or anxiety, or both, tend to subsequently use a broader range of social media outlets.
For example, they may be searching out multiple avenues for a setting that feels comfortable and accepting.
However, it could also be that trying to maintain a presence on multiple platforms may actually lead to depression and anxiety.
More research will be needed to tease that apart.”

The results come from a 2014 survey of 1,787 US adults aged between 19 and 32.

source: PsyBlog


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Is Social Media Good For You?

Using social media can have benefits for your mental health, but only if you use it in the right way

Whether I’m standing on the tram, sitting in a café, or walking down the street, I’m struck by the sight of so many people looking down at their phones, scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or a myriad of other social media platforms.

I immediately ask myself, in this increasingly technological age, what is the impact of constant social media use on our mental health?

On one hand, it allows us to stay up-to-date and connected. I can find out what friends in America and around the world are doing at any time of day or night.

On the other, it’s hard to carry on a normal conversation without someone compulsively checking their feed, rendered paranoid by FOMO (fear of missing out). A person might have thousands of “friends”, but feel completely alone.

So is social media good or bad for us? In a new study published in the Journal of Mental Health, PhD student Elizabeth Seabrook, Dr Nikki Rickard from Monash University and myself found that it is not as clear-cut as you might think.

We reviewed 70 studies that have examined how social network use relates to depression, anxiety, and subjective well being. Results were mixed. Some studies found social media users were happier and more connected with other people.

But other studies found that social media users had more signs of depression or anxiety. So we also looked at various factors that had an impact on when it is beneficial or harmful.

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Studies were conducted between 2005 and 2016, mostly with adolescents and young adults. Most focused on Facebook, with a few studies centred around the use of Twitter, MySpace, or social media in general.

These studies examined a variety of themes, including how much time people spent on social media, the number of friends they had, and whether or not they liked and felt accepted by their friends.

Also examined were the words they used, how much personal information they shared, whether they compared themselves with others, and how much they felt addicted to social media.

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Someone can have thousands of online ‘friends’ but still feel alone.

Across the studies, it appears that it’s not so much that social media causes anxiety and depression, but that people have different ways of using social media, which may be more or less helpful.

For example, Chris, who reported high levels of wellbeing, liked to use Facebook to catch up on the latest gossip and share with others fun things that happened during the day.

Meanwhile, Carey, who suffers from depression, spent hours browsing the newsfeed, and bemoaning how nice everyone else’s life seems.

For many, social media appears to have a range of benefits. It provides a way for many of us to connect with others. We can support other people and feel supported by them. It may even be a useful way for those with social anxiety and those who have a hard time with face-to-face interactions to connect with others.

But for those with depression or anxiety, it could make their symptoms worse. Indeed people who often compared themselves to their friends, ruminated about life, or had negative interactions with others, were at greater risk of depression and anxiety.

Notably, the number of hours that people spent on social media didn’t make a clear difference – it was more the feeling of being addicted to it. It seems like what a person writes about is more indicative of their state of mental health than the number of hours spent online.

Those with symptoms of depression were more likely to be jealous of their friends, compare themselves to others, and use negative language when using social media. This is similar to what I’ve seen in some of my other research, which points to the power of the words that we use.

A growing number of studies suggest that we might be able to use data from social media use to identify people suffering from depression or anxiety, thereby providing the possibility for offering support and resources for those who might not otherwise get the help they need.

social_media_health

So what can we take away from the study? We each have unique patterns in how we use social media, in terms of the language we use and how we behave when we are using it.

Do you keep your friends updated on your activities? Post pictures of your family? Complain about work or other people? Passively browse news feeds without commenting? Do you feel like it helps you connect with others, or do you feel addicted and controlled by it?

As a whole, our review suggests that it is valuable to pause and consider what our behavioural patterns are. By understanding them better, we potentially can make better choices about how to best use social media, as well as use it to promote good mental health.

By Dr Peggy Kern, University of Melbourne