Since the explosion in social media use, there have been several studies done on how technology affects our mental health. A recent study from the Pew Research Institute decided to take those studies further by seeing which type of technology use affects us and in what ways. For example, simply scrolling emails or using a mobile calendar is positive; on the other hand, seeing negative posts on social media can cause stress.
When a person, specifically a woman, sees a friend post bad news about their husband losing their job on their social media account, the stress can be contagious. A person may then be consumed with thoughts of their friend’s bad luck. Scientists call this the “cost of caring.”
Women tend to be disproportionately at-risk for these negative effects, due to what researches call the “triple burden.” They have their job stress, home management and the task of maintaining theirs and their family’s personal relationships.
“Women do more networking on behalf of the family,” said study author Lee Rainie, director of Pew’s Internet, Science and Technology Research. Using different technologies are “time management tools” and “confer advantages for women who bounce a lot of activities in life.”
So when a busy working mother uses her mobile device to organize schedules and keep in touch with teachers, the technology is positive. She can be reminded of appointments and to pick up the cookies for tonight’s PTA meeting. It is when she gets consumed in social media that the “cost of caring” risk deepens. Women tend to use social media more than their male counterparts, exacerbating this risk even further.
“They’re more aware of social events — positive and negative — happening in people’s lives. When bad things happen to people, the associated stress is more likely to rebound against women.” This can also be true about positive events like engagements or birth announcements. Studies have shown that when these posts are seen, it can negatively affect a person’s self-esteem.
So if social media use is risky for a person’s mental health, why do we use it? The truth is that in today’s fast-paced society, everyone wants to know what is going on all of the time. For most people, the warm feelings they get from seeing their old college roommate’s new baby may outweigh a post about war. The bottom line on technology and social media: use it at your own risk.
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