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27th September 2018

Venting on social media lowers self-esteem, study finds

New research provides a new perspective on the effect of social media usage on mental health
Venting on social media lowers self-esteem, study finds
Photo: Ibrahim.ID @Wikimedia Commons

A study from the University of Manchester suggests that venting on social media can lead to a decline in mental health.

Dr. Natalie Berry, a researcher at The University of Manchester, observed and recorded the negative impact of social media on a group of 44 participants. These individuals took part in activities on social media for a period of six days, receiving a total of six alerts per day. This study is the first to monitor specific activities on media platforms, including liking posts and retweeting.

The study, published in August, concluded that publicly expressing anger and other feelings on these platforms was linked to an overall lower self-esteem, and an increase in paranoia. In addition, following the lives of people the subjects were not friends with, for example, celebrities, showed a general decrease in mood as well as self-esteem. The results of the study show that these activities negatively influence all individuals, regardless of their initial mental state. Dr. Berry states, “There seems to be no difference on how Social Media impacts on people with psychosis compared to people without psychosis”.

A group of students at The University of Manchester, frequent users of social media, were asked to comment on the recent findings. One of the students claimed, “What is unhealthy about (social media) is the constant use of it. It has become so easy to constantly check your phone, look through texts and notifications all day. When you spend so much time doing something, you become dependent on it. I think that’s why it has such a huge effect on people’s mood”.

Another student at the university confirmed this sentiment by saying, “The idea that hundreds of ‘non-friends’ can judge you has people craving their validation which, I feel, causes paranoia”. All the students agreed that social media has influenced them to take part in unhealthy behaviour that they would not have done otherwise, such as constantly checking someone’s profile. One of the students claimed that “social media in the form of pictures can be an online playground of competition which can make someone feel unworthy or insecure”.

Dr. Berry suggests a way that the impact of social media can be monitored, placing the responsibility in the hands of the professionals. She states, “Mental health professionals should be routinely asking about how their clients use social media in a clinical context”.

The full report can be found on The University of Manchester website in the Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica Journal.

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