Tweet, Like, Snap, #Enough: How Social Media is Stressing Us Out

Do you remember what life was like before social media? It’s hard to imagine our world once existed without hashtags, emojis, and filters. This is because for many of us, social media has become a huge part of daily life. 

Think about what typical day on social media may look like for you. Upon waking, you may check your Twitter account to see what’s trending. As you wait in line for your morning coffee, you may see a pregnancy announcement on Facebook from someone you haven’t seen since elementary school. During your lunch break, you may check out your favourite celebrities on Instagram and wanderlust over yachting in the Greek Islands or make lists of must-have beauty products…and on and on it goes until you do the final check of your accounts before you close your eyes, sleep, wake up, and do it all again.  

According to Mediakix (2017), the average person will spend more than five years of their life on social media. This puts daily usage of social media around 2 hours. With such a significant amount of time being dedicated to social media, let’s explore the science behind its usage and also uncover how for many of us, it has become a source of daily stress. 


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Social Media: What’s the Science?

So why are we using social media for approximately 2 hours every single day? Well, it makes us feel good! As we use social media, the pleasure chemicals in our brain, specifically dopamine and oxytocin, are stimulated. Dopamine causes seeking behaviour such as wanting, desiring, or searching (Schultz, 1998). Oxytocin, fondly known as the “cuddle hormone”, causes feelings of calm, trustworthiness, generosity, and closeness (Magon & Kalra, 2011). In the world of social media, the “ding” of a notification, a like on your photo, or a new friend added can stimulate dopamine and oxytocin leaving you to feel instantly gratified – does this sound familiar?  

While social media usage may make us feel good in the short-term, researchers have found that long-term social media use can also make us feel stressed (Kontos et al., 2010). A study at the University of Michigan found that participants who used Facebook more, were more likely to be unhappy and report less satisfaction with their lives, compared with those that used Facebook less (Kross et al., 2013). According to PsychCentral (2016), social media-related stress is often contributed by our tendency to compare ourselves to others and their “perfect lives”. Comparing our weekends, milestones, accomplishments, etc. to others can make us feel inadequate which can lead to anxiety, stress, or even depression. People have also reported experiencing “FOMO” or the Fear of Missing Out when reviewing their social media. This too can have similar effects on mental health and well-being, leaving us feeling lonely, sad, and anxious (Ryan et al., 2014). 


 Tips to Manage Social Media-related Stress

As we live with our daily stressors, it’s important to recognize social media as a potential contributor instead of a strategy to manage that stress. Quitting social media entirely may feel unrealistic or unnecessary, but taking a break from it or changing the way you use it can be helpful in improving your mental health and well-being. We’ve compiled some strategies you may consider implementing: 

Assess the Way You Use It:  When you use your social media, do you find yourself comparing your life to what you see in other people’s posts? Do you find yourself spending hours thinking about your social media image, your brand, or how you can find something “worthy” to post. How does this make you feel? Sad, lonely, anxious, or stressed? If you responded yes, it may indicate that social media has become a source of stress in your life. Identifying this as a source of stress will help you to identify coping strategies that can help you reduce or relieve the stress associated with social media (e.g., yogameditation, eating well, talking to someone, etc.). 

Unfollow, Block, or Remove:  Think about the people that you have included in your social network. Is there anyone in particular that makes your social media experience stressful?  For instance, it could be someone with widely different political views, the lifestyle blogger that lives large, or even a friend who posts daily selfies. With social media, you can instantly unfriend or unfollow people as quickly as you added them. And don’t worry about your friends feeling offended if you’ve turned off notifications from their posts – they will never know!

Limit Your Use:  This tip is similar to our previous post where we provided tips to manage workplace stress – if you’re setting boundaries for checking work-related messages, you can do the same with social media. Choose specific times of the day where you will catch up on social media-related content and allocate a limited amount of time to do so. When you’re time is up, move on to something else. You may actually find yourself having more time in the day to engage in other activities. 

 Unplug: If it all has become too much, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is take a vacation from social media. Disable your accounts or put your phone on airplane mode and begin your time off. Unplugging from the world of social media is likely to improve sleep, self-control, and time with family and friends – all which can reduce stress!   

Live in the Moment:  Have you ever enjoyed a beautiful sunset, heard your favourite band perform live, or experienced a milestone event in your life? Significant moments are meant to be viscerally lived and felt in our hearts. While documenting these moments can serve as an opportunity to share with your social network, your smartphone is no replacement for remembering how you felt as you truly lived the moment.  

It’s unlikely that the pace of our lives online will slow down – new apps and social media platforms are being made and introduced to us every day. As social media evolves, we hope that the strategies we’ve provided here will help you to lead Ease-ier lives online! And if you’re feeling overloaded with social media remember to, “Do more things that make you forget to look at your phone.” – Unknown

 

Live life lighter,

Carolyn & Stephanie


References 

Mediakix. (2016). How much time do we spend on social media? Retrieved from: http://mediakix.com/2016/12/how-much-time-is-spent-on-social-media-lifetime/#gs.I2ExQus  

Schultz, W. (1998). Predictive reward signal of dopamine neurons. Journal of neurophysiology, 80(1), 1-27. 

Magon, N., & Kalra, S. (2011). The orgasmic history of oxytocin: Love, lust, and labor. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 15(Suppl3), S156. 

Kontos, E. Z., Emmons, K. M., Puleo, E., & Viswanath, K. (2010). Communication inequalities and public health implications of adult social networking site use in the United States. Journal of Health Communication, 15(sup3), 216-235.

Kross, E., Verduyn, P., Demiralp, E., Park, J., Lee, D. S., Lin, N., ... & Ybarra, O. (2013). Facebook use predicts declines in subjective well-being in young adults. PloS One, 8(8), e69841.

Maldonado, M. (2016). The anxiety of Facebook. Retrieved from: https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-anxiety-of-facebook/  

Ryan, T., Chester, A., Reece, J., & Xenos, S. (2014). The uses and abuses of Facebook: A review of Facebook addiction. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 3(3), 133-148.  

Sam Cooper