Social Media Use and Unhappiness: Part I

November 8, 2021

Louis Tay

According to recent research, people spend a startling amount of time on social media. It has been estimated that people spend more than 2 hours daily on average on social media platforms.

Yet, one does wonder – does spending all that time on social media improve our well-being?

It appears that social media does not improve our well-being. Instead, it may even worsen it! A study of more than 1,700 U.S. young adults found that the amount of time and the frequency of social media use were both related to greater levels of depression. Conversely, research showed that in a randomized controlled study of undergraduate students, restricting the amount of time spent on social media improved happiness.

Why might high social media usage be potentially harmful to our well-being? There may be a few reasons:

  • Social media use creates anxiety due to fear of missing out (FOMO).
  • Social media can trigger negative feelings of envy because of social comparisons.
  • There are many unrealistic standards of beauty and success on social media that lower our sense of self-worth and esteem.

Given all of these reasons, we may improve our well-being by reducing social media use. Next week, I will discuss some strategies from research and from my own experience that I felt have been helpful to that end.

In the meantime, before you jump to use social media, consider other ways to spend your time to promote your well-being.

Be well,

Louis Tay

Tay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. He has expertise in well-being, assessments, and data science. Be sure to check back each week for another wellness tip of the week! 

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