Social Media and the Cost of Caring

For generations, commentators have worried about the impact of technology on people’s stress. Trains and industrial machinery were seen as noisy disruptors of pastoral village life that put people on edge. Telephones interrupted quiet times in homes. Watches and clocks added to the de-humanizing time pressures on factory workers to be productive. Radio and television were organized around the advertising that enabled modern consumer culture and heightened people’s status anxieties.

Inevitably, the critics have shifted their focus onto digital technology. There has been considerable commentary about whether internet use in general and social media use in particular are related to higher levels of stress.1 Such analysts often suggest that it is the heaviest users of these technologies that are most at risk. Critics fear that these technologies take over people’s lives, creating time pressures that put people at risk for the negative physical and psychological health effects that can result from stress.

This research explores whether the use of social media, mobile phones and the internet is associated with higher levels of stress. In a Pew Research Center survey of 1,801 adults,2 we asked participants about the extent to which they felt their lives were stressful, using an established scale of stress called the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS).3 This scale is based on people’s answers to 10 questions that assess whether they feel that their life is overloaded, unpredictable and uncontrollable. Perceived stress, as measured through the PSS, can be viewed as an assessment of the risk that people face for psychological disorders related to stress, such as anxiety and depression, as well as physical illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and susceptibility to infectious diseases.

Read the results of this study from Pew Research – click here

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