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The negative impacts of social media
In 2012, Anxiety UK conducted a survey on social media use and its effects on emotions.
The survey found that 53% of participants said social media sites had changed their behavior, while 51% of these said the change had been negative.
Many people using social networking sites make comparisons with others, which can lead to negative emotions.
Those who said their lives had been worsened by using social media also reported feeling less confident when they compared their achievements against their friends.
"This problem has definitely gained recent attention," says Dr. Rauch. "We know that many people on social media sites often present idealized versions of their lives, leading others to make upward social comparisons, which can lead to negative emotions."
Furthermore, the survey revealed that two thirds of participants reported difficulty relaxing and sleeping after they used the sites, while 55% said they felt "worried or uncomfortable" when they were unable to log onto their social media accounts.
In a more recent study, conducted by Dr. Rauch and colleagues, the team found that social interaction on social media sites, specifically Facebook, may have a negative impact on face-to-face encounters for individuals who already have high levels of anxiety.
Another concern regarding social media use is cyber bullying. As stated earlier in this feature, the majority of social networking users are under the age of 30, and most of these are adolescents.
According to Enough is Enough (EIE) - an organization that aims to make Internet use safer for children and families - 95% of teenagers who use social media have witnessed forms of cyberbullying on social networking sites and 33% have been victims of cyber bullying.
But Dr. Rauch believes it is not purely the use of social media that is getting out of control, but our need to be electronically connected at all times.
"I think parents should be aware that their adolescent children are living at a time where they are constantly 'on' and connected.
I would encourage any parent to explore ways to encourage or even mandate 'off' time, not just away from social media sites, but away from the devices. That is probably good advice for all of us."
Could Facebook be used to improve mental health and well-being?
Although many studies point to the negative impacts of social media on mental health and well-being, some researchers say they could have the opposite effect. Social networking sites could be a useful tool in identifying individuals with mental health issues.
Last year, Medical News Today reported on a study from researchers at the University of Missouri, which claimed that Facebook activity may be an indicator of a person's psychological health.
Some studies have suggested that social media use may even improve mental health and well-being.
The team found that people who shared fewer pictures on the site communicated less frequently, had a longer profile and fewer Facebook friends, and were more likely to experience social anhedonia - the inability to encounter happiness from activities that are normally enjoyable, such as talking to friends.
Another study, from the University of California San Diego (UCSD), suggests that using social media may even spread happiness. The research team, led by James Fowler of the School of Medicine at UCSD, found that happy status updates encourage other users to post happy status updates themselves.
"Our study suggests that people are not just choosing other people like themselves to associate with but actually causing their friends' emotional expressions to change," says Fowler.
"We have enough power in this data set to show that emotional expressions spread online and also that positive expressions spread more than negative."
In fact, the researchers believe that this viral spread of happiness is so strong that if magnified, it could trigger an "epidemic of well-being."
"If an emotional change in one person spreads and causes a change in many, then we may be dramatically underestimating the effectiveness of efforts to improve mental and physical health."
Overall, it appears that the exact effects of social media on our mental health and well-being remain to be seen. But one thing is certain; our use of social networking sites is unlikely to fade anytime soon.