The way you use social media may just be affecting your happiness, according to a new study by UBC Okanagan.
Derrick Wirtz, an associate professor of teaching in psychology at the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, took a close look at how people use three major social platforms—Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—and how that use can impact a person’s overall well-being.
“Social network sites are an integral part of everyday life for many people around the world,” said Wirtz. “Every day, billions of people interact with social media. Yet the widespread use of social network sites stands in sharp contrast to a comparatively small body of research on how this use impacts a person’s happiness.”
Even before social isolation became the norm amid COVID-19, Wirtz said social media has transformed how we interact with others. Face-to-face, in-person contact is now matched or exceeded by online social interactions as the primary way people connect. While most people gain happiness from interacting with others face-to-face, Wirtz notes that some come away from using social media with a feeling of negativity—for a variety of different reasons.
One issue is social comparison. Participants in Wirtz’s study said the more they compared themselves to others while using social media, the less happy they felt.
“Viewing images and updates that selectively portray others positively may lead social media users to underestimate how much others actually experience negative emotions and lead people to conclude that their own life—with its mix of positive and negative feelings—is, by comparison, not as good,” he said.
Wirtz notes that viewing other people’s posts and images while not interacting with them lends itself to comparison without the mood-boosting benefits that ordinarily follow social contact, undermining well-being and reducing self-esteem. “Passive use, scrolling through others’ posts and updates, involves little person-to-person reciprocal interaction while providing ample opportunity for upward comparison.”
As part of his research, study participants were asked about four specific functions of Facebook—checking a news feed, messaging, catching up on world news and posting status or picture updates. The most frequently used function was passively checking one’s news feed. Participants primarily used Facebook without directly connecting with other users, and the negative effects on subjective well-being were consistent with this form of use.
During COVID-19, Wirtz notes people naturally turn to social media to reduce feelings of social isolation. Yet, his research (conducted before the pandemic) found that although people used social media more when they were lonely, time spent on social media only increased feelings of loneliness for participants in the study. “Today, the necessity of seeing and hearing friends and family only through social media due to COVID-19 might serve as a reminder of missed opportunities to spend time together.”
The more people used any of these three social media sites, the more negative they reported feeling afterward. “The three social network sites examined—Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—yielded remarkably convergent findings,” he said. “The more respondents had recently used these sites, either in aggregate or individually, the more negative effect they reported when they responded to our randomly-timed surveys over a 10-day period.”
Wirtz’s study also included offline interactions with others, either face-to-face or a phone call. Comparing both offline communication with online, he was able to demonstrate that offline social interaction had precisely the opposite effect of using social media, strongly enhancing emotional well-being.
But all is not lost, Wirtz says, as this research also reveals how people can use social media positively, something more important than ever during COVID-19. He suggests people avoid passively scrolling and resist comparing themselves to other social media users. He also says people should use social media sites to enable direct interactions and social connectedness—for example, talking online synchronously or arranging time spent with others in-person, when possible and with proper precautions.
“If we all remember to do that, the negative impact of social media use could be reduced—and social networks sites could even have the potential to improve our well-being and happiness,” he adds. “In other words, we need to remember how we use social media has the potential to shape the effects on our day-to-day happiness.”
Wirtz’s study was recently published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.
Hong Kong Media Mogul Jimmy Lai Detained on Fraud Charges – BNN
(Bloomberg) — Next Digital Ltd. founder Jimmy Lai was taken into custody by Hong Kong police and charged with fraud, marking the outspoken pro-democracy media mogul’s latest run-in with the law as the city cracks down on high-profile dissidents.
Lai, 73, was charged with fraud alongside two Next Digital executives on Wednesday, according to Mark Simon, an aide to the media tycoon, confirming earlier media reports. Lai will probably be released on bail Thursday after a hearing, said Simon, who described the charges as being politically motivated.
Shares of Next Digital, which have been on a roller-coaster ride this year — they’ve hit record lows and 12-year highs in 2020 — were halted from trading in Hong Kong Thursday. They last traded at HK$0.23, down 10% for the year.
Lai’s arrest comes on the heels of another prominent activist, Joshua Wong, being sentenced for more than a year in jail for leading a protest outside of police headquarters last year. The moves represent the latest setbacks for the anti-Beijing movement that paralyzed the Asian financial hub last year. The turmoil prompted China to push through a national security law for the city, giving local authorities broad powers to silence critics.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
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