Social media only been around for 30-odd years. The first social media sites started in the mid- to late-1990s, Facebook was founded in 2004, YouTube in 2005, Twitter in 2006, and Instagram in 2010. Even though social media is so new, it has dramatically changed how we communicate with each other. Does it also impact our happiness?
As it turns out, social media can have a dramatic effect on our happiness and mental health. Studies have consistently found that the more you use social media, the less happy you tend to be. In a world where many American adults spend up to 11 hours a day interacting with screens, that’s not great news for our collective well-being.
Social media can negatively affect our happiness in a few ways. Most significantly, social media invites social comparison. Since most people post only their happiest, prettiest, most "instagrammable" moments, it’s easy to feel that your life is worse than everyone else’s (Pro tip: they feel the same when they look at your feed). After spending time on social media, many people feel they have wasted their time, which further erodes self-esteem. Social media can also encourage sedentary screen time, thus harming our health and fitness, and cuts into time that we could spend interacting face-to-face with friends.
However, social media at its best can foster community, spark discussion, and help families and friends stay in touch from far away. When social media helps us build real-world relationships, it can be very valuable.
So, if you choose to use social media, be sure to use it on your terms. Turn off notifications and set a schedule for when you’ll check on social media. Pay attention to how your feed makes you feel, and unfollow accounts that make you feel envy, anger, jealousy, or other negative emotions. Use social media to positively engage with friends. Have conversations, discuss issues, and — most importantly — make sure to get together in real life.
If your favorite part of social media is funny cat memes, stay tuned! Next time, we’ll explore the connections between happiness and laughter.