All social media platforms are not created equal. Current research focuses on two types of social media and where they fall on the happiness spectrum.
Even though we know social media doesn’t accurately portray real life, it’s easy to fall victim to social comparison and feel bad about our lives. YOLO — “You only live once” — one moment at a time, that is. Being present and connected to the moment, both in our daily routine and with our social media usage, can keep us happier and healthier.
The Problem with Social Media
A breakthrough study, published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, examined Facebook’s influence on subjective well-being over time. Five times a day for two weeks, participants completed surveys via text message that recorded psychological states in relation to Facebook behavior. The study discovered that although face-to-face interaction does not predict negative outcomes, increased Facebook usage causes decreased levels of both happiness (“affective” well-being) and life satisfaction (“cognitive” well-being).
Like most influencing factors of modern life, we ultimately decide how social media will impact us. In another prominent study “Social Network Activity and Social Well-Being,” Carnegie Mellon professor and two Facebook staffers determined that meaningful online engagement results in increased feelings of bonding and decreased loneliness. When users directly correspond by commenting, sending messages, or posting on someone’s wall, they felt more connected. However, if people passively consume content and fail to communicate in a more personal way, social media has the opposite effect — provoking withdrawal, detachment, and discontentment.
Feeling discontented isn’t helped by the permanence of social media. Just think of the anxiety in making a new relationship “Facebook official” or how much time it takes to craft the perfect baby announcement photo. Fortunately, Snapchat invites users to break loose from self-presentation, superficial appearances, and the permanent weight of Facebook life events (do we really need to be able to see what we posted in high school?). Snapchat creates space to celebrate trivial, everyday occasions, which encourages users to spontaneously share experiences less seriously than on other platforms.
Other than real life contact, Snapchat is the most personal form of social media. A recent study titled “Sharing the Small Moments: Ephemeral Social Interaction on Snapchat” finds that Snapchat is “perceived as more enjoyable — and associated with more positive mood — than other communication technologies.” In fact, the U-Mich study concludes that participants think of Snapchat as resembling ordinary in-person conversations because they are “mundane, not recorded, and typically occur with close relationships.”
Staying Happy IRL
All aspects of health require active participation, and mental health is no different. Be intentional. Use social media for connection, encouragement, and support by using it mindfully, instead of allowing it to promote boredom, envy, and depression. Pay attention to how you’re feeling when you’re scrolling through Instagram: does that yogi’s account inspire you or make you jealous? If it’s the latter, maybe watch a cat video or just put down your phone.
American culture often prioritizes physical health over mental and emotional health, but check-ups with a therapist can be just as important as flossing daily and maintaining normal blood pressure. Mental health benefits can be limited under even the best insurance plans, but SingleCare provides members with access to discount therapy and low-cost mental health services regardless of insurance status.
Social media shouldn’t be a source of stress and unhappiness, and neither should your healthcare. With SingleCare, you can take advantage of top doctors, incredible rates, and pay-as-you-go services. SingleCare is free to join and easy to navigate. We’re committed to keeping you healthy and happy — whether or not you like us on Facebook.
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