21 Oct 2019

Social media has little to do with mental wellbeing, latest study finds

9:27 am on 21 October 2019

New evidence suggests if Twitter and Facebook upset you or leave you down in the dumps you're likely to be in a minority.

Social media apps. Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, Line, Twitter logos.

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Dr Sam Stronge from the University of Auckland's School of Psychology has found someone would have to spend vast amounts of time online - more than a 29 hours at a time - for it to cause distress.

After questioning 19,000 people aged between 18 and 95 Dr Stronge has concluded there is very little difference in how people feel after being on social media and how they feel after looking after children, watching television or playing computer games.

"We accounted for as many variables in the data as possible so that we could accurately see how good or bad one hour of social media was for people's mental wellbeing and those results couldn't be explained by anything else," she said.

While previous research had found that the way we use social media, by comparing ourselves to others for example, can make negative feelings worse, overall the study found social media has very little to do with mental wellbeing.

The study used data from the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Survey, which questioned 19,000 New Zealand adults on their use of social media and their psychological wellbeing.

It has been published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking.

Cyberbullying will be addressed in a separate study.

The overall effect of social media use in society is more or less neutral, Dr Stronge said.

"Most people are using it in a way that suggests they're probably not going to get any strong negative effect."

Social media could be used in ways that hurt people, and certain groups were more vulnerable to negative effects, but as a whole it was just like any other tool that could be used well or badly, she told Morning Report

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