All research in the world AF (After Facebook) tells us that social media negatively affects our mental health. It increases anxiety, depression, loneliness, and triggers FOMO (fear of missing out) in especially the young people who use it. Mindlessly switching timelines and profiles and doomscrolling scrolling is quite bad for us.
But all social media use might not necessarily be all bad. In the recently released BBC documentary “The Truth About Improving Your Mental Health,” a group of researchers conducted an experiment where they found that actively using social media actually aids in mental health.
Active use is defined as active engagement such as content creation, uploading and commenting on posts, whereas passive use is defined as mindless scrolling. They tested this on a group of 18-25 year olds in the United Kingdom with no prior history of a mental health diagnosis.
“When we talk about active and passive social media use, what we really mean is cognitively active and cognitively passive,” Dr. Lee Smith, one of the researchers of the study, told Stylist. Smith is an expert in studying the impact of online behaviour, and previously conducted a study which found that daily social media use leads to increased isolation.
Just after 20 minutes of passive social media usage, the participants’ mood dropped.
The results of his new study are staggering, finding that just after 20 minutes of passive social media usage, the participants’ mood dropped. Those who used it in an active way saw their mood improve. Heck, even their confidence increased significantly!
Laurele Mitchell, a counselor from the UK, explained that this difference occurs due to the connections that come from using social media actively.
“Active consumption of social media (or anything for that matter) implies intent that translates into purposeful action. Think sitting down to a home-cooked meal rather than mindlessly inhaling popcorn while watching a film,” she said.
“So, in the case of social media, active consumption may take the form of connecting with family and friends through sharing photos of our latest lockdown life hack, by engaging in one of our friend’s posts to keep in touch, especially with friends who are not regular fixtures in our lives, or to contribute to a community or group that we may be a member of,” Mitchell said. “All of this can help to foster one of the most fundamental of human needs, a sense of belonging.”
Maybe social media isn’t all bad? Or as research tells us, we should be engaging more, and indulging less in mindless scrolling and taking screenshots of people’s pandemic vacation pictures.