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Are social networks harmful to our society

Stay tuned for more storiescoming soon… Share your tips for a happy life on social media with the hashtag LikeMinded on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. With social media playing such a big part in our lives, could we be sacrificing our mental health and well-being as well as our time? What does the evidence actually suggest? Is it time to rethink how we use social media?

Is social media bad for you? The evidence and the unknowns

An introduction to our LikeMinded season Since social media is relatively new to us, conclusive findings are limited. The research that does exist mainly relies on self-reporting, which can often be flawed, and the majority of studies focus on Facebook. That said, this is a fast-growing area of research, and clues are beginning to emerge. BBC Future reviewed the findings of some of the science so far: STRESS People use social media to vent about everything from customer service to politics, but the downside to this is that our feeds often resemble an endless stream of stress.

But Twitter also acted as a coping mechanism — and the more women used it, the less stressed they were.

  • As with food, gambling and many other temptations of the modern age, excessive use for some individuals is probably inadvisable;
  • But at the same time, it would be wrong to say social media is a universally bad thing, because clearly it brings myriad benefits to our lives;
  • As with food, gambling and many other temptations of the modern age, excessive use for some individuals is probably inadvisable;
  • Marketing researchers Jonah Berger and Eva Buechel found that people who are emotionally unstable are more likely to post about their emotions, which can help them receive support and bounce back after negative experiences.

View image of Credit: The study suggested that people felt that way because they saw it as a waste of time. The better news is that happy posts had a stronger influence; each one inspired 1.

  • ANXIETY Researchers have looked at general anxiety provoked by social media, characterised by feelings of restlessness and worry, and trouble sleeping and concentrating;
  • Spending more time on social media, the researchers said, could displace face-to-face interaction, and can also make people feel excluded.

Whether a happy post translates to a genuine boost in mood, however, remains unclear. ANXIETY Researchers have looked at general anxiety provoked by social media, characterised by feelings of restlessness and worry, and trouble sleeping and concentrating.

They concluded that more research needs to be done. Researchers found higher levels of depressive symptoms among those who reported having more negative interactions.

However, as BBC Future will explore this month in our LikeMinded season, scientists are also looking at how social media can be used to diagnose depression, which could help people receive treatment earlier. From this, they developed a classifier that can accurately predict depression before it causes symptoms in seven out of 10 cases. They found a link with sleep disturbances — and concluded blue light had a part to play.

The researchers say this could be caused by physiological arousal before sleep, and the bright lights of our devices can delay circadian rhythms.

View image of One of the worst times to use social media may be just before bed Credit: And if social media addiction does exist, it would be a type of internet addiction — and that is a classified disorder. But now, social media, with its filters and lighting and clever angles, is taking over as a primary concern among some campaigning groups and charities. View image of Selfies may have downsides for the viewer Credit: Some sat with a mirror placed against a computer screen, for instance, while others sat in front of their own Facebook profile.

Facebook had a positive effect on self-esteem compared to other activities that boost self-awareness. The more time people spent on the site, the worse they felt later on, and the more their life satisfaction declined over time. But other research has found, that for some people, social media can help boost their well-being.

Marketing researchers Jonah Berger and Eva Buechel found that people who are emotionally unstable are more likely to post about their emotions, which can help them receive support and bounce back after negative experiences.

However, they suggested there is clearer evidence for the impact on one group of people: Each pair sat in private booths, and half had a mobile phone on the top of their table. Those with a phone in eyeshot were less positive when recalling their interaction afterwards, had less meaningful conversations and reported feeling less close to their partner than the others, who had a notebook on top of the table instead.

Women spent much more time on Facebook then men, and experienced significantly more jealousy when doing so. Spending more time on social media, the researchers said, could displace face-to-face interaction, and can also make people feel are social networks harmful to our society.

However, the evidence does point one way: As with food, gambling and many other temptations of the modern age, excessive use for some individuals is probably inadvisable. But at the same time, it would be wrong to say social media is a universally bad thing, because clearly it brings myriad benefits to our lives.