• Vikram Kamboj

How people use social media impacts their wellbeing: Research

New research from University of British Columbia Okanagan campus found that it's not if, but how people use social media that affects their wellbeing.

Researchers took a close look at how people use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and how that use can affect their overall wellbeing. They found that one of the reasons why some people come away from using social media with a feeling of negativity is social comparison.

"Viewing images and updates that selectively portray others positively may lead social media users to underestimate how much others actually experience negative emotions and lead people to conclude that their own life - with its mix of positive and negative feelings - is, by comparison, not as good," said Derrick Wirtz, associate professor of teaching in psychology at the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

Responses were unequivocal: Passively scrolling through others' updates, with little person-to-person reciprocal interaction, tends to undermine wellbeing and reduce self-esteem.

Interestingly, researchers found that during Covid-19 most people turned to social media to reduce feelings of social isolation - but time spent on social media only increased their feelings of loneliness, almost serving as a "reminder of missed opportunities to spend time together."

The solution? Wirtz said that people can use social media positively, to enable direct interactions and social connectedness rather than to passively check others' updates. "If we all remember to do that, the negative impact of social media use could be reduced - and social network sites could even have the potential to improve our wellbeing and happiness."