Social Media Use Can Improve Well-Being

OCTOBER 06, 2016
Ryan Marotta, Assistant Editor
Certain interactions on Facebook may have a positive effect on users’ psychological health.
 
A recent study, published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, administered a survey on social media use and well-being to 1910 Facebook users from a total of 91 countries. Although previous research tended to group all social media use together, the research team designed this survey to distinguish among posting, passive reading, comments, likes, and other forms of activity, as well as to differentiate between close and casual acquaintances.
 
Based on their analysis, the researchers determined that receiving 60 comments from close friends in a one-month period was associated with elevations in users’ psychological well-being and satisfaction with life. Notably, these increases were comparable with those associated with major life events, such as getting married or having a baby.
 
“We’re not talking about anything that’s particularly labor-intensive. This can be a comment that’s just a sentence or 2,” said study author Moira Burke, PhD, in a press release. “The important thing is that someone such as a close friend takes the time to personalize it. The content may be uplifting, and the mere act of communication reminds recipients of the meaningful relationships in their lives.”
 
Previous studies based on user surveys have suggested that time spent on social media is associated with a greater risk of loneliness and depression. Based on their findings, however, the study authors speculated that social media use isn’t necessarily contributing to these conditions. Instead, lonely or depressed individuals may turn to social media more frequently because they know it makes them feel better.
 
“It turns out that when you talk with a little more depth on Facebook to people you already like, you feel better,” stated study author Robert Kraut, PhD. “That also happens when people talk in person.”
 
Although these findings indicated that more personalized social media interactions had a greater effect on emotional health than one-click interactions, such as “likes,” receiving a Facebook thumbs-up can still provide a small boost to users’ self-esteem. However, a separate study has found that individuals with a firm sense of purpose are less likely to be positively affected by Facebook likes.
 
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, measured the self-esteem, sense of purpose, and social media use of nearly 250 active Facebook users from across the country. The researchers also asked about 100 Cornell students to post a selfie to a mock social media site, and told the students at random that their picture had received a high, low, or average number of likes.
 
In both studies, receiving more likes was linked to a self-esteem boost only in those who reported lower levels of purpose, while those who reported higher level of purpose showed no change in self-esteem regardless of how many likes their photos had gotten.
 
“We found that having a sense of purpose allowed people to navigate virtual feedback with more rigidity and persistence. With a sense of purpose, they’re not so malleable to the number of likes they receive,” said study author Anthony Burrow, PhD in a press release. “Purposeful people noticed the positive feedback, but did not rely on it to feel good about themselves.”
 
Additional research has shown that individuals are using social media to supplement their face-to-face interactions, but not replace them. Another recent survey also revealed that social media is being interestingly used by community pharmacies to help them stay connected to their patients. 


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