Social media: how does it affect our mental health and well-being?


In 1971, the first email was delivered. More than 40 years on, social media has taken the world by storm. Social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are now used by 1 in 4 people worldwide. Such activity may seem harmless, but some researchers suggest social media may affect our mental health and well-being.
In 2012, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that Facebook use may feed anxiety and increase a person’s feeling of inadequacy.
A more recent study, led by social psychiatrist Ethan Cross of the University of Michigan, found that using Facebook may even make us miserable.
“On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection,” says Kross. “But rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result – it undermines it.”
But are such claims exaggerated? Or should we be limiting our use of social media? Medical News Today looks at the evidence.
In essence, social media defines an array of Internet sites that enable people from all over the world to interact. This can be through discussion, photos, video and audio.
Facebook is the leading social networking site, with more than 1.2 billion global active users every month. The site’s popularity is followed closely by MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn and Bebo.
On average, Americans spend 7.6 hours using social networking sites, such as Facebook, every month. The latest statistics show that around 42% of online adults use multiple social networking sites. Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of social media users are under the age of 30, although the number of older users is on the rise. Around 45% of Internet users aged 65 or older now use Facebook, increasing from 35% in 2012.
On average, Americans spent 7.6 hours a month using social media, with the majority of individuals accessing social networking sites through cell phones.
In the late 1980s, the first commercial dial-up Internet service provider (ISP) was launched in the US. Internet technology has certainly advanced in the past 25 years, so much so that the words “dial-up” make most people cringe.
Of course, one of the main attractions for connecting to the Internet was, and still is, the ability to better connect with the world around us. For example, the Internet allowed us to send emails as an alternative to the timely process of sending letters through the mail. Social media has built on this premise.
“Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.