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Why Do Social Networks Increase Stress?

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It’s hard to remember life before social media. How did we ever know what our distant, high school friends’ kids looked like? Or what they cooked their family for dinner? Or the fabulous places they visited on their seemingly-bi-monthly tropical vacations?

Although Facebook and Twitter feel almost ubiquitous today, according to the Pew Foundation, only 60 percent of Americans belong to a social network (For the record, our data says 61 percent but we’ll defer to Pew). Shockingly, that means well over one-third of people in the U.S. may never see a picture of their niece’s swimming trophy or know if that guy they met at the conference is nearing his two-year job anniversary.

But, are the 40 percent of Americans who are un-networked really worse off? Are the active tweeters and status updaters living a more enriched life or a more stressful one? We dug into our piles of data to shed some light on these questions.

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We quickly found that social network users are, in fact, 14 percent more likely than non-users to characterize their lives as at least “somewhat stressful.” Non-users, conversely, are 28 percent more likely than users to say their lives are “not at all” stressful. Clearly, there is a strong association between social media and stress, but why? I’m glad you asked.

Here are a couple possibilities:

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES

Like it or not, social media is one of the most prevalent ways people learn about new movies, music, fashion, books, or other products. Twenty-eight percent of people say their friends on social media influence the music they listen to, 36 percent the TV shows and movies they watch, and 36% the brands and products they buy.

All of this influence appears to correlate closely with stress. People who say social media influences the products they buy “a lot” are 45 percent more likely to say their lives are “very stressful.” Maybe we can’t afford all the fancy new products our friends are buying. Maybe we’re too busy to follow the trends in music or fashion. Whatever the reason, it’s evident that the more we pay attention to our friends’ activities, tastes, and possessions, the more stress we report in our lives.

KEEPING UP WITH YOUR “SELF”

There’s a secondary, if unconscious, effect of all this social media influence: We feel pressured to portray our ideal selves for everyone to see. When surveyed, 40 percent of social media users admitted they often post/share things to improve their image. Honestly, how often do you see someone check-in at Dollar General, boast about their job demotion, or post pictures of the frozen chicken nuggets they microwaved for their kids? Seldom, right? Instead, we tend to highlight the positive aspects of our lives and personalities, if only to compete with everyone else who is doing the same thing.

This need to measure and curate our social media persona has a strong association with stress. People who say they post things on Facebook or Twitter to improve their image are over 4.5 times more likely than other people to “always” feel stressed.

KEEPING UP WITH THE NSA

Maybe the lack of privacy and discretion in social media is driving up our stress levels. When nearly every part of our lives is only a cell-phone-camera-click away from being viral content, are we doomed to high anxiety? Our data suggests this is possible. For example:

  • Social network users who are “very concerned” about consumer privacy are 20 percent more likely to characterize their lives as “very stressful.”

  • 83 percent of people believe Facebook does the worst job of protecting their privacy, compared to 11 percent who say Google, and 6 percent who say Apple.

  • 69 percent of Facebook users do not believe the social network does enough to protect privacy.

  • 77 percent of Americans do NOT believe employers should be able to review Facebook profiles as part of the job application process (even though they do).

Obviously, most people with extreme privacy concerns never join social networks in the first place. That might just be too much anxiety for them to handle.

KEEPING UP WITH TECHNOLOGY

Finally, simply being “plugged in” all the time is a major stress-driver. Consider that 51 percent of U.S. adults admit to being addicted to their digital devices, which they use primarily to be connected to the rest of the world. These addicts are 32 percent more likely than non-addicts to consider their lives at least somewhat stressful. What’s more, social network users who are addicted to their digital devices are 76 percent more likely than average to say their lives are at least somewhat stressful.

KEEPING IT IN PERSPECTIVE

Using free services like Twitter or Facebook is a trade-off. We get to keep in touch with friends and read some great content; but we lose a lot of discretion and privacy as a result. We just need to keep it in perspective. Remember the earlier stat that 40% of people post things to improve their image? When asked the question differently, 77% of people (almost 2X more) believe that their friends DO post things to improve their image. You know your friends’ lives aren’t any more perfect than yours, so don’t let it stress you out. Put down your device every once in a while and enjoy the life you have.

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24 Hours Across Africa

10 changes you make in your 30’s.

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Many people spend their 20s getting some unhealthy behaviours out of their system — like sleeping until 2pm on Saturdays and spending all their disposable cash on new kicks.

But your 30s are an ideal time to cement the habits that will help you achieve personal and professional fulfilment for the rest of your life.

To give you a head start, we sifted through recent Quora threads on this critical life transition and highlighted the most compelling responses.  TOP ARTICLES1/5READ MOREWoman with dementia punched in the facewhile wearing badge saying ‘I have Alzheimer’s please be patient’

Here are 10 lifestyle tweaks you can make in your 30s to lay the foundation for lifelong success:

1. Stop smoking.

If you’ve started smoking, stop immediately, suggests Quora user Cyndi Perlman Fink.

While you can’t undo the damage you may have already incurred from smoking, research suggests that those who quit before age 40 have a 90% lower mortality risk than those who continue.

2. Start going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day.

It might be tempting to use the weekends to recoup your sleep debt, but Nan Waldman recommends you hit the hay and wake up around the same time every single day.

If you oversleep for even a few days, experts say you risk resetting your body clock to a different cycle, so you’ll start getting tired later in the day. Avoid a lifetime of sleep issues by sticking to bedtime and wakeup routines whenever you can.

3. Start exercising regularly.

“Try to move yourself as much as possible,” says Alistair Longman. “It doesn’t matter if it’s walking, cycling, running, weightlifting, hiking, swimming — as long as it involves some movement.”

In the later half of your 30s, you start losing muscle mass, so it’s especially important to exercise at this time. But remember to choose physical activities you really love, since you’re less likely to continue exercising if you dislike your workouts.

4. Start keeping a journal.

“Journal your life! Your written records will entertain and endear in your future,” writes Mark Crawley.

Even if you’d prefer to keep your musings to yourself, putting your thoughts and feelings on paper can help you deal with stressful events.

(Getty)

5. Start saving money.

“Building the habit of saving early means you’ll continue it further down the line,” says Cliff Gilley.

It might seem like your golden years are a lifetime away, but the earlier you start saving, the more time your money has to accrue interest.

6. Start pursuing a life dream.

“Don’t delay pursuing your life goals,” writes Bill Karwin. “Want to buy a house? Have kids? Write a book? Pick one of those life goals and get started. What can you do between now and the end of the year to embark on one of them?”

7. Start learning to be happy with what you have.

“If you are content with what you have, you will have a happier life,” says Robert Walker.

It’s really about gratitude: Research suggests that appreciating what you have can increase happiness and decrease negative feelings. Perhaps that’s why Oprah Winfrey kept a daily gratitude journal for years.

8. Stop thinking you need to satisfy everyone.

“After I reached 30, I stopped feeling the need to please everyone. You can choose your friends and contacts more carefully,” says Kevin Teo. In particular, Teo realised he wasn’t obligated to be nice to people who were unfriendly toward him.

Whether you decide to whittle down your Facebook friends to a mere 500 or simply hang out more with the people who make you happy, it’s important to invest your time and energy wisely.

9. Stop comparing yourself to others.

“If you are unable to do some things in life compared to your siblings and friends, then please be at peace with yourself,” advises Mahesh Kay. “Don’t be harsh on yourself.”

As one psychotherapist writes, constantly peering over your shoulder to see what others are doing doesn’t help you accomplish your goals. You’d be better off spending time thinking about what you want to achieve and evaluating your progress on those fronts.

10. Start forgiving yourself for your mistakes.

“Forgive yourself your mistakes. We all make plenty of them. Don’t dwell on the errors of the past — learn from them, let them go, and move ahead,” writes Liz Palmer.

One social psychologist says that self-compassion (the ability to forgive yourself and learn from your mistakes) is the key driver of success. That’s likely because people who practice self-compassion see their weaknesses as changeable and try to avoid making the same errors in the future.

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Sobering Up: In An Alcohol-Soaked Nation, More Seek Booze-Free Social Spaces

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A national trend of boozeless bars is cropping up nationwide to create social spaces without the hangovers, DUIs and alcoholism culture. It’s part of a new push for sober options.

ST. LOUIS — Not far from the Anheuser-Busch brewery, Joshua Grigaitis fills a cooler with bottles and cans in one of the city’s oldest bars.

It’s Saturday night, and the lights are low. Frank Sinatra’s crooning voice fills the air, along with the aroma of incense. The place has all the makings of a swank boozy hangout.

Except for the booze.

Pop’s Blue Moon bar, a fixture of this beer-loving city since 1908, has joined an emerging national trend: alcohol-free spaces offering social connections without peer pressure to drink, hangovers or DUIs. From boozeless bars to substance-free zones at concerts marked by yellow balloons, sober spots are popping up across the nation in reaction to America’s alcohol-soaked culture, promising a healthy alternative for people in recovery and those who simply want to drink less.

Joshua Grigaitis puts out nonalcoholic drinks on a Saturday night. From boozeless bars to substance-free zones at concerts marked by yellow balloons, sober spots are popping up across the nation, promising a healthy alternative for people in recovery and those who simply want to drink less.

A cooler is filled with bottles and cans at Pop’s Blue Moon bar, which hosted boozeless Saturday nights in January, offering hop water, nonalcoholic beers and drinks infused with cannabis-derived CBD. (LAURA UNGAR/KHN)

“We evolved as social creatures. This is a good trend if you want the experience of companionship and social culture but don’t want the negatives,” said William Stoops, a University of Kentucky professor who studies drug and alcohol addiction. “It can help people make better choices.”

A federal survey shows nearly 67 million Americans binge drink at least monthly, meaning women down four drinks during a single occasion, men five. Midwestern states have some of the highest binge-drinking rates in terms of both prevalence and intensity, putting millions of people at risk.

Research links excessive alcohol use to fatty liver, cirrhosis and cancers of the breast, liver, colon, mouth and throat as well as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, dementia, anxiety and depression. Nearly half of murders involve alcohol, according to studies. Drinking kills about 88,000 people annually, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. Such diseases and social ills cost the nation an estimated $249 billion a year.

Even one drink a day is unhealthy, said Dr. Sarah Hartz, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis. “If you’re going to drink, know it’s not good for you.

If you or someone close to you is struggling with issues mentioned in this story and you would like to connect with others online, join USA TODAY’s “I Survived It” Facebook support group. For help with a drinking problem, check Alcoholics Anonymous, Smart Recovery or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s helpline at 800-662-HELP.JOIN THE GROUP

For Grigaitis, 41, who also goes by Joshua Loyal and is co-owner of the bar, tying all his fortunes to alcohol was “weighing on my soul” after 20 years in the business. He cut way back on his own drinking and began holding boozeless Saturday nights in January, offering hop water, nonalcoholic beers and drinks infused with cannabis-derived CBD.

“I love everything about the bar business — except the alcohol,” he said. “The nonalcoholic beverage movement is a growing group. I’m making a decision to choose this and I’m proud of it.”

Chris Marshall, who founded Sans Bar in Austin, Texas, in 2015, got sober in 2007 and was working as a counselor when a client shared how difficult it was to navigate the social world without alcohol. The client’s relapse and subsequent death was his call to action.

Sans Bar held a national tour this year with pop-up events in St. Louis, Portland, Ore., and Anchorage, Alaska, and opened a permanent location in Austin. It draws a largely female crowd all along the sobriety spectrum, from those in recovery to the “sober curious.” People gather for hours to sip handmade mocktails, talk, dance and listen to speakers and sober musicians.

“If you closed your eyes on a Friday night, you’d think you were in a regular bar,” he said. “This is not about being sober forever. This is about being sober for the night.”

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