Sept 3, 2020

Social Media and Well-being: the Likes and Dislikes

 “The massive and undeniable benefits of digital life - access to knowledge and culture -have been mostly realized. The harms have begun to come into view just over the past few years and the trend is moving consistently in a negative direction.”   - Rob Reich, professor of political science at Stanford University

Social media use has been shown to have both positive and negative effects on well-being. Access to information, including resources that increase well-being, can be empowering. Social media can also provide a platform for marginalized individuals or groups to have a voice, as well as facilitate connections for those who are lonely, However, research tells us that too much use may lead to negative, unhealthy emotions such as anxiety, depression, narcissism and decreased social skills.

Constantly 'keeping connected' and comparing ourselves to others can be unhealthy. Being frequently distracted from being with ourselves and honing our abilities to regulate our emotions, build self-awareness and self-reflective skills while constantly comparing ourselves to others can leave us dissatisfied, empty and even depressed. Virtual friendships do not seem to have the same therapeutic effect on our well-being as time spent in the company of real friends. Despite the potential for massive online social networks, there seems to be a gap between real friends vs. “fake friends”—social media connections who people do not really spend time with in real life.

Here are some tips to promote healthy use of social media:

Support a healthy online community. Before commenting, stop and reflect. Are your comments necessary, helpful or kind? As with email, commenting online when feeling angry or defensive may result in regret. If a conversation makes you upset, leave it.

Focus on the moment. Taking pictures and sharing on social media may allow you to document your experiences. However by focusing on the perfect photo op and how it is presented to the public you may miss the real experience and fail to retain a lasting memory.

Create connections, not comparisons. Social media can facilitate meaningful connections, especially with friends or family who are remote, and thus improve well-being. With that said, when reviewing someone’s profile, ask yourself if you are connecting or comparing.

Start and finish your day phone free. Avoid scrolling through social media sites upon waking or immediately before bed. You cannot control what you are going to see and this may have a negative impact on the start of your day, or how well you sleep.

Use social media responsibly. While these platforms can provide a venue to promote social accountability, misinformation and poor communication can result is conflict that might have otherwise been avoided with a real time conversation.


The Well-being Task Force

Faculty of Medicine