Social Media and Quality of Life: Correlation not Causation.

As most of us evolved from little embryos to large adults, platforms of technology have progressed from large desktops to little phones and tablets. This convenience has paved the way for social media. Social media has become a part of over three billion people’s lives all over the world and is home to the world’s largest platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, which are used to express views and opinions. With the evolution of technology, critics argue that our quality of life is being subjected to de-evolution and harm. Different groups of people believe in both the positives and negatives of this new trend, but there is not any tangible evidence that points towards either. Since most research is self-reported, conclusions can never be adopted completely, due to which it has been very difficult for researchers to form firm conclusions. Quality of life is defined as the standard of health, comfort, and happiness experienced by an individual or group, with articles online pointing towards both good and bad effects of social media on an individual’s quality of life. However, the way people’s quality of life is affected is not confined to the effects of social media. In this post, I will examine how an individual’s existing state of mind, along with their interactions with others on social media, affect their quality of life.

To understand this take on the matter, I will explain the diathesis-stress model. The diathesis stress model is a psychological theory that attempts to explain an outcome as the result of a predisposition to the outcome along with the stress exposed to the individual. In this situation, the stress is the interaction with social media and time spent on it and the predisposition is a person’s state of mind before the interaction with technology. When people display symptoms of loneliness and access social media platforms, simply viewing various posts about other people’s lives might make them feel worse and more lonely. This level of loneliness might translate into a mental health issue which would have to be addressed. In this situation, spending time on a platform such as Facebook would be the stressor and the previous hints of loneliness would be the predisposition. The article titled, “How Facebook Makes us Unhappy” speaks about the work of a psychologist, Timothy Wilson, who says that humans have forgotten how to entertain themselves mentally and so have become dependent on platforms such as Facebook. However, getting rid of Facebook wouldn’t change the fact that our minds have forgotten how to effectively engage themselves. If not social media, we would find other outlets to distract ourselves and so Facebook isn’t the cause but the symptom. This is in line with the theory of outcomes being a result of the predisposition as well as the stressors.

The article titled, “Instagrim: Why Social Media Makes Students Miserable” accentuates how social media fails to allow people to express themselves. The young generation is always encouraged to be themselves and to express their views and opinions without fear of judgement. This idea is surely very helpful to shape individuals but also highly idealistic. Most people only display one version of themselves on the internet. The article calls this persona of an individual the “reputation self.” Since everyone only displays their ideal self on the internet, people are afraid to show any faults or any extreme thoughts that might not be appreciated by others. This causes everyone to just be a sheep in the herd and voice only those thoughts that would be in line with the others’ thoughts, which prevents them from being true to themselves. There are two sides to this, in some cases, it is good to not voice some opinions on social media, since these opinions might hurt some of the audiences’ feelings; however, in other cases people hide their opinion to conform to societal norms which hinders the individual’s growth and therefore affects their quality of life. In this situation, social media acts as a representation of society. In some cases, however, this role that it fulfils makes people believe that their opinions are wrong as they do not align with society’s opinion. However, this does not happen because of social media as a whole but because of society and it’s expectations. This is why the fake persona that people showcase is not caused by platforms such as Facebook and Instagram but is affected by them.

Since people’s opinions are affected by social media, the article titled, “Is social media bad for you? The evidence and the unknowns” observed how a single negative post influenced other negative posts. The findings were that one negative post by someone in a rainy city influenced another 1.3 negative posts by friends living in dry cities. On the other hand, happy posts had a stronger influence; each one inspired 1.75 more happy posts. This means that interactions with social media influence their overall opinions and their state of mind. However, a clear mention must be made: this interaction only ‘influences’ the audiences state of mind and does not cause it. If someone is in low spirits, browsing through positive posts will not eliminate that bad mood. Additionally, this article touches upon the fact that people on average spend around two hours every day on social media. That is about one month every year spent on just social media. Looking back at the times that social media didn’t exist, it is evident that we are compromising on other parts of our lives just to look at our phones. Although people argue that the engagement with social media posts is what makes people happy, allowing it to take over a twelfth of our lives is harmful to our quality of life. This time could be spent in more productive ways such as getting rest or doing outdoor exercises that will benefit ones health.

Now that we’ve analysed how the internet can negatively affect one’s life, we must also see the positives. The article titled, “How Social Media Can Improve Quality of Life” suggests that there are many benefits of using social media too. To begin with, social media brings people closer. Two people living far away from each other can easily stay in contact with the help of social media. Even in our busy lives we can make time for to keep ourselves updated on our loved one’s lives through websites such as Facebook. The issue with this train of thought is that even though social media does have a lot of benefits if used in the right way, the sad reality is that, while people acknowledge its benefits, the side effects of being addicted to such platforms are major. The other benefit mentioned in this article is the fact that social media brings opportunities to you. What they mean by this is that if we ever want to learn a new skill, acquire knowledge, partake in a business meeting, or even attend a class, there are enough opportunities on social media for us to make use of. This argument, however, is not very strong as there are so many more ways to find opportunities and so it cannot be concluded that these opportunities presented on social media are the cause of one’s happiness, recreation, and therefore quality of life.

Some researchers argue that social media helps integrate one into a society. In a research paper by H. Achat, I. Kawachi, S. Lewine, C. Berkey, E. Coakley, and G. Colditz, mental health was studied with regards to social media and social interaction. Researchers hypothesized that social isolation caused partly by little to no social media interaction presents a risk to the well-being of individuals. Of the 47,912 women studied in this study, only 49% of them were ranked as highly socially integrated. It was also found that social isolation was associated with higher age standardized prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, and mellitus. These conclusions pointed towards a lack of social media leading to social isolation, which also resulted in a 60% higher risk rates of being diagnosed with clinical depression. From the previous articles we learned that peoples dependency on social networks has increased with the passage of time. Therefore, the conclusion from this research paper could mean an exponential increase in health quality of life since social media is helping people integrate into society. Although these conclusions may seem idealistic, people in the modern world, when deprived of technology, will be isolated since most people use technology as their main source of communication. This lack of access could also be the future cause of mental illness if the same patterns of social media dependency continue . However, when making these conclusion, we must take into consideration the fact that this is all a correlation and not a causation. Mental illness can only occur if there is already a predisposition to it. Similarly, mental illness can only be kept at bay through social integration if the environment is already healthy. If other stressors exist, social integration cannot completely stop health from deteriorating.

In conclusion, there are arguments both for and against it’s influence on quality of life. These conclusions however all have a limitation. All social media’s effects on a person are dependant on the person’s previous state of mind. Social media is only a stressor and so only displays a correlation and not a causation.

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