There’s never been a better time to think about social media’s impact on our mental well-being. In 2017, the smartphone turned 10 years old; that means that gradually science is catching up, and new research is emerging about its world-changing impact. Having a computer in the palm of our hands has given us access to each other’s lives – and an insight into our own lives – that was totally unprecedented before the internet. Many people may no longer even remember a time before social media. But is it making us any happier?
That’s what we’d like to find out in a new season on BBC Future called #LikeMinded. There’s been a lot of talk recently that social media has a negative impact on our mental health, and you might be looking at the beginning of the new year as an opportunity for digital detoxing. The early studies suggest that, as well as making us more connected than ever before and giving us exhilarating hits of dopamine, social media usage is associated with symptoms of depression, anxiety and loneliness in some people.
Early studies suggest that social media usage is associated with depression, anxiety and loneliness in some people
Social networking giant Facebook responded to these concerns in a blogpost last month, claiming that it’s down to how you use social media rather than social media itself being inherently bad. That’s true – many technologies have the capacity to cause harm if used improperly. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t interrogate the design and impacts of social media in its current form. Indeed, Mark Zuckerberg has hinted that this will be a goal for Facebook in 2018: this week, he wrote that one of his challenges in the year ahead will be “making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent”.
In one survey of 1,800 people, women reported being more stressed by social media than men (Credit: Getty Images)
In the #LikeMinded season, we’ll be looking at various angles, including the possibility of social media addiction, how our posts can reveal the state of our mental health and why our obsessive smartphone usage is ruining our sleeping patterns.
We’re starting with a review of the available science on the subject – what we know, and what we don’t know about the impact of social media on self-esteem, relationships, loneliness and much more.
At the end of our season we hope that – with your help – we’ll come up with a host of solutions to ensure that social media is the positive human tool that it should be.
This season is an opportunity to look at the research head on – the good, the bad and the ugly about using social media – and think about how all those likes and shares might really be affecting us in 2018.