Social media done right is better for you than previously thought

Is social media making people miserable? It seems like it sometimes…

Suicide rates are on the rise, and studies link social media to higher rates of depression.  A 2012 study, for example, found that the more time you spend on Facebook, the more likely you are to be depressed.

But that doesn’t make sense, because staying social is good, right?

People who stay socially connected have better physical health, more positive moods, and less depression, according to the research. So, why would socializing online be any different?

Well, the truth is, it might not be. Social media gets a bad rap. But the idea that social media harms mental health might be based on false assumptions…

In fact, a new study shows that social media is making our mental health better not worse.

Social media soothes psychological distress

Forget everything you read about social networks and bad mental health…

A new study from Michigan State University shows the exact opposite is true.

This latest study analyzed data from 13,000 adults and found that social media is reducing serious psychological distress.

In fact, people who used social media were 63 percent less likely to experience severe psychological distress, including things like depression and anxiety. And staying connected to extended family members on social networks (like most of us do) reduced psychological distress even more.

Why were the results of this research so different from studies that came before?

Well, in previous studies, all participants were teens or college students. This time around the data came from adults and it was a nice-sized study group.

So, if you’re a teen or young adult, you should be cautious about your online use. But it’s good to know us full-grown adults are safe to use social media without sending our mental health into a downward spiral.

Finding balance with Facebook and other social networks

Next time you spend an hour sharing articles and reacting to posts on Facebook, don’t feel guilty. You’re doing it in the name of better mental health. Of course, you can always have too much of a good thing…

Related: The health downside (and upside!) of Facebook

Raw kale’s healthy. But if you eat cups and cups of it every day, you’ll end up with a very grumpy gut (trust me. I did it). The same is true for social media. When you check your Facebook feed and Instagram messages every 30 minutes, it can make social media feel stressful or you can become addicted.

Set aside a specific amount of time for social networks every day to bring your social media back in balance again. How much time should you set aside?

There are no hard and fast rules for how much social media time is healthy for adults. As long as you’re spending time outside, getting exercise and sleeping enough every day, you’re free to set your own online schedule.  Don’t forget to set aside time for socializing in real life too. Social media’s great. But it’s no replacement for a hardy in-person laugh, a hug, a meaningful conversation and other forms of face-to-face connection.

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Sources:

  1. Can Facebook improve your mental health? — MedicalXpress
  2. The Health Benefits of SocializingPsychology Today
  3. What are the health benefits of being social? — Medical News Today
  4. Should Adults Have Screen Time Limits, Too? — Rewire

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.