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What are the Psychological Effects of Social Media?

Social media cubeSo you sit down to lunch with a good friend, looking forward to catching up and hearing the latest gossip. To your unpleasant surprise, however, your friend’s eyes are glued to an iPhone screen, and it’s almost as if your every attempt at conversation is met with a reluctant disengagement from a device that seems to contain the world in its entirety. You find this beyond annoying, and you wind up eating your meal quickly so you can end the awkward interaction as fast as possible. “At least I’m not that bad,” you think, only to check your Facebook account every 15 minutes once you get home, and crash on the couch with your laptop.

Are our digital lives more important than our real ones? It’s undeniable: We’re hooked on social media, and this trend is not going away anytime soon. Social media can be extremely beneficial in a number of ways, allowing people to connect and share ideas, as well as accessing information that would otherwise be extremely difficult to obtain. But where do you draw the line? It’s kind of scary to consider, but are we even thinking about what all this Tweeting and Facebooking  is doing to our mental health?

Academics and anthropology researchers have also become interested in this topic as many studies exploring the effects of social media services have been conducted in recent years. The purpose of these studies is to determine the effects of social media on how we communicate with each other, as well as the effects these networks have on our psyches. Predictably, there are positive and negative sides to the effects social media has on us.

PROS:

  • According to several bloggers who participated in a survey by PsychCentral, the act of blogging makes them feel closer to their offline friends. It acts as a sort of therapy; bloggers feel as if their blogs are safe spaces where they can seek support and feedback by sharing thoughts and connecting with others online.
  • Through blogging, people feel more connected, which is a significant factor in our overall happiness.
  • Twitter can act as a unifier, bringing us together by making communities and individuals who have similar interests more aware of what is going on around them. Scanning through Twitter feeds is the fastest and most convenient way of understanding what is going on in your social and business circles.

CONS:

  • Overuse of social media can cause narcissistic tendencies in teens and anti-social behavior in young adults. Studies found that daily use of Facebook can make people more prone to depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders.
  • Research finds that the more friends one has on Facebook, the less socially adjusted he or she is. A study conducted on students entering college found that those with several hundred Facebook friends had less actual friends, and their social skills were poorer than those who had less Facebook friends.
  • Facebook and other social media networks can have a negative impact on learning. Studies conducted on students from middle school through college showed that frequent use of social media services resulted in lower grades.

There must surely be positive and negative sides to any social phenomenon or scenario, and the golden rule of moderation is one to always keep in mind.  Research on the psychological effects of social media will no doubt become an area of study that will inform several future arenas, and social media tools themselves will most likely evolve in the most interesting ways. To find out more stats and info on Facebook, take a look at our previous post on how the number of users and their average ages are on the rise.

Image courtesy of Kexino.

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