Social Media: Distracting Ourselves to Death

Now it’s possible that you could look at the title of this article and immediately begin reading it with a defensive mindset because it reminds you of something your parents would forward you on your email. Not to mention that this particular forward would be kind of ironic, because email is just another form of social media, and they’re being pretty hypocritical by sending you an email about not using social media. However, this is me talking. I’m a kid. I’m one of you guys, remember?

Now, think back to the last time you used social media personally. When was it? Was it during a time when you should have been doing something else? For me, most of the memories I have of using something like Facebook are from when I was distracting myself from something else I was supposed to be doing. That may be a personality flaw on my part, but I think that a lot of people would agree that Facebook negatively affects their productivity.

But there are other problems with the social media life. Recent studies have examined the psychological impact of constantly observing the highlights of all your friends lives, and comparing them to your own.The trouble with Facebook is that it almost always represents how people want you to think their lives are, not how they really are on a day to day basis. A recent study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology has examined the negative impact of comparing other people’s Facebook lives to your own daily one.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Houston, examined the psychological well being of over 200 participants as a function of their tendency to compare themselves with others, and the amount of time that they spent on social media like Facebook. They were able to establish a positive correlation between an increase in social comparisons and frequent Facebook use, and in turn connected these with symptoms of depression.

Also, another factor that affects users of Facebook is the tone of the shared content that they encounter. The company of Facebook itself conducted a study in which they altered more than half a million Facebook feeds and examined the content that people posted as a result of seeing more positive or negative news content in their feeds. The study, published in the New York Times, found that people who were exposed to more positive news stories tended to post more positively, and vice-versa with exposure to negative stories.

What these studies go to show shouldn’t be anything new to you. I would hope that you realize that comparing yourself to others too much isn’t healthy, just as focusing on all the negative news and information in the world will drag you down and affect your mood. What I hope these findings will do for you is make you think about what you do see on Facebook and similar sites, and pause to evaluate if it really is a good use of your time or not.

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