People who spend a lot of time online or using social media do not have higher levels of stress compared to those who don’t, a new survey suggests.
The Pew Research Center surveyed 1,801 people about how much stress they feel based on a scale that assesses how much people consider their lives to be uncontrollable, unpredictable or overloaded. Despite growing concern over “digital stress,” the survey found that Internet, social media and cellphone users did not have higher stress levels than less tech-inclined participants. On top of that, women who use a lot of social media report being less stressed overall.
However, people who use social media are more aware of stressful events in other people’s lives, like the loss of a job or a death in the family, which can contribute to an individual’s own stress levels. Women with an average-sized Facebook network were aware of 13% more stressful events in their close friends’ lives and aware of 14% more in the lives of acquaintances. Men were 8% more aware of stressful events in their friends lives and 6% more aware of events in their acquaintances’ lives.
Women reported they were most often informed of other people’s stress from photos shared online on sites like Pinterest and Twitter, whereas men’s awareness came most often from text messages, email and LinkedIn. Women who use Facebook and Pinterest are typically aware of 29% more stressful events in the lives of their closest friends and family, and men who text and are on Facebook and LinkedIn are aware of 67% more stressful events for friends and family.
Awareness of certain events happening in the lives of other people, like the death of child or partner, resulted in more stress for women. For men, friends being accused of crime or getting demoted at work stressed them out most.
“Learning about and being reminded of undesirable events in other people’s lives makes people feel more stress themselves,” said study author Keith Hampton, a Rutgers University scholar, in a statement. “This finding about the cost of caring adds to the evidence that stress can be contagious.”
So while you may not be experiencing Fear Of Missing Out every time you log online, being inundated with the goings-on of others can be a stressful experience overall.