Social Media and Well-Being: What’s the connection?

As social media continues to become more popular, psychologists are growing interested in how social media affects a person’s well-being (which includes a person’s level of happiness, self-esteem, and self-image). Over the last few years, the picture has grown somewhat bleak: using social-media regularly seems to be related to lower levels of well-being (e.g. more anxiety, depression, and loneliness), and more negative views of oneself.

Recently, though, the University of Pennsylvania published an interesting article that creates a more complete picture about the relationship between social media usage and well-being.

Up to this point, we have been able to demonstrate a correlation between low levels of well-being and regularly using social media. What hasn’t been clear, though, is whether or not there could be a cause-and-effect relationship between the two. In other words, psychologists haven’t been sure whether using social media regularly can cause lower levels of well-being in some people, or if some people with lower levels of well-being use social media more.

Now, what appears to be becoming more clear is that using social media can cause some people to experience more feelings of depression, loneliness, anxiety and “fear or missing out” (or FOMO as the term has come to be known). **

It’s not all bad news, though. Psychologists offer some advice, based on their research. If you are someone who has noticed an increase in anxiety, depression, and loneliness in your life, then you can decrease these negative feelings by decreasing your social media usage. The psychologists found that by limiting total social media usage to 30 minutes a day, people showed significant positive changes in their mood and well-being. In other words, if you can limit the total amount of time you spend on all social-media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and yes, even Snapchat), then you can plan on feeling better about yourself.

There is an irony here. Social media has grown through the implicit claim that it can make people feel more connected, and thereby increasing people’s well-being. What appears to be clear, though, is that using social media too much can actually make people feel more lonely and worse about themselves.

Take home: If you are balking at giving up social media, then don’t worry! You don’t have to get rid of using it completely. But by limiting your total time to 30 minutes (or less) a day, you can plan on seeing positive changes in your well-being.

**It’s important to note that not everyone will experience a dip in their well-being after using social media regularly. There are many people who can psychologically and emotionally from using the various social media platforms. However, it does seem clear that some individuals (perhaps those who are more prone to anxiety and depression) can experience a decrease in their well-being after regularly using social media.