It’s been a busy week in the world of scientific conjecture. A recent report by the Pew Research Center revealed several key findings about the relationship between stress and social media use. According to the report, which used the “Perceived Stress Scale” questionnaire as its method of gathering evidence, there’s no direct relationship between social media and stress. “Frequent” and “heavy” users of social media don’t experience more stress than non-users.

 

Picture of woman using a laptop

Women who use Twitter, share photos, and engage with emails experience 21 percent less stress than women who don’t – Pew Research Center

Things become more complicated when we consider women on social media. Women who use social media develop support networks with friends and followers, which contributes to lower stress levels. However, women may experience higher levels of stress when friends and family members share bad news on social media. Considered the more sympathetic sex, women are more susceptible to worrying about loved ones who share details about personal misfortunes.

 

 

What the report doesn’t discuss is how social media affects professionals who essentially “live” online. Public relations and media professionals fit into this category. Contrary to what our friends and family members think about our online activities, we’re “working” on social media, not “playing.” An aspect of the report that can provide some insight into the effects of social media on media professionals is the assertion that the connections we develop online contribute to overall happiness. For professionals, these connections contribute to success. A share, mention, like, or retweet might make the average person feel good about him or herself, but for a professional who relies on social media to make a living, they provide a sense of accomplishment. At the very least, they tell us we’re doing something right.

 

People Using Social Media Image

People who don’t use social media have fewer close relationships and are the most “disconnected Americans” – Pew Research

Still, the report doesn’t examine the effects of social media on media professionals. In public relations, social media is a tool we use to communicate messages to the public. On one side of the argument, you could say that social media has made our jobs easier. On the other side, you could say that social media has added to our list of job duties, making the job harder, or at least more complex. Professionals are also frequently attacked on social media, and when bad news goes viral, the effects can be catastrophic and career ending.

 

Ultimately, the only thing the report tells us with any certainty is that social media isn’t the monster people once thought it was, and it acts as a support network for people in times of need. It also causes people to display inauthentic images of themselves, which brings up an intriguing question: If a person receives support or praise for an activity or accomplishment that isn’t authentic, can the person experience authentic satisfaction or happiness? Perhaps, that’s a question for another scientifically hollow questionnaire.

 

Are you active on social media? Do you believe that social media contributes to your overall happiness, or does it cause you more stress? Leave your insights in the comments section, or tweet me @nataliepetitto.