Social media might not be as harmful to wellbeing as originally thought, study suggests

Ever since social media was introduced with the likes of Facebook, Myspace and MSN Messenger, there have been concerns about what it could be doing to our mental health.

Studies have been conducted for years focusing on the effects different platforms have on people’s wellbeing, with most concluding it can be harmful, especially among teenagers.

But a new study conducted by the University of Oxford finds this to be false, concluding that the impact social media has on wellbeing is “trivial”.

The study asked 12,000 10-15 year olds how long they spent on social media a day, and how satisfied they were in different parts of their life. Professor Andrew Przybylski explained to BBC News that “99.75% of a person’s life satisfaction has nothing to do with their use of social media”.

So why do so many believe it does?

 

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The study investigated teenagers social media habits between 2009 and 2017: image courtesy of Unsplash

WNOL spoke to people about social media to find out if the study’s findings are reflected by the general public.

“It can be really addictive,” says one woman, who uses most platforms on a daily basis.

Another woman believes it can have an impact wellbeing, especially if someone already has an insecurity. “I think it can either bring on mental health issues, or it can escalate them and heighten them. I think any little comment can start something quite serious.”

This coincides with the study, which argued that other investigations into social media haven’t considered teenagers who might use social media more often because they already have mental health problems.

Tobias Dienlin, a media psychologist at the University of Hohenheim who was part of the research team on the study, says he predicted the results.

“If you asked me before the study I would have said, I don’t think we’ll have strong effects, it’s very unlikely. But I can understand people who are reading the news would be surprised.”

WHAT DID THE STUDY FIND_

When asked if social media could be used to improve mental health, one man WNOL spoke to believed the damage had already been done. “I feel like the negative effects are more apparent than the force that’s trying to overcome that,” he explains.

“Everyone should reflect on their social media usage,” Tobias says in response to many people still believing social media harms their wellbeing, but tries to reassure users that they shouldn’t be as concerned as they are.

“We shouldn’t ring the alarm when there’s not really an alarm to be rung”.

He believes that more research needs to be conducted on the same scale as the Oxford study. “The research we are currently doing is still in its infancy, there’s still so many things we can improve”.

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash