It’s six o’clock in the morning, and Suzeanne’s alarm insists she wake up.  In the darkness of her room, she groggily looks toward the faint glow of her smartphone screen, checking Facebook for the first time today.  

Incidentally, checking her social media feeds was the last thing she did before falling asleep the previous evening.  At breakfast, another quick peek at her feed keeps her up to date, helping her ensure she hasn’t missed anything important.  This quick but important glance will tide her over until her next social media check at work in about an hour.

For the rest of the work day, Suzeanne will check in randomly with her feeds, as time and work restrictions allow.  At home after work, she will “hang out” on Facebook or Pinterest whenever she feels bored or lacks entertainment—which is often.

In all, she’ll beat the average American’s daily Facebook usage of 40 minutes by an hour or so.  But she won’t feel too badly about it… after all, the average American’s daily TV time is much more than that.  It’s not like she’s “addicted” to Facebook.

And, anyway, Suzeanne believes that social networks may be one of the greatest benefits of living in the digital age.  They allow her to connect with friends and family from around the globe, sharing photos, videos, ideas, and thoughts with lightning speed.  What’s the down side?

That’s a very good question.  And research is beginning to give us some interesting answers.

For instance, recent research tells us that emotions on Facebook can be quite contagious.  This means that it’s very possible for an emotional domino effect to take place on network sites.  If people post consistently negative thoughts or messages, it can make others feel negatively and post negatively as well, which causes the cycle to continue.

Suzeanne may feel that spending a lot of time reading her social media feeds isn’t impacting her emotional well-being throughout the day, but it very likely is.

And the domino effect isn’t the only way Suzeanne’s social media habit can be messing with her mind.  Other researchers have indicated that when users frequently read graphic details of crime or disaster stories on their social media feeds, they can begin to experience symptoms similar to those associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.

There was a time when a person like Suzeanne would only be exposed to a certain amount of this kind of traumatic news, perhaps what she might read in the local paper or see on a television news broadcast.  But the amount and detail of graphic and disturbing information that is now available to her on her feeds puts her at risk of experiencing trauma vicariously.

Other researchers have found that some users of social media have depressed feelings after reading other’s posts.  Often people don’t post the negative occurrences in their lives, because they want to project a good online image.  Sometimes, to that end, they will even exaggerate the good in their world.

According to the research, then, a person like Suzeanne can find herself feeling very down because her life is not as wonderful as the skewed picture she has of her friends’ lives.

Research has even found a connection between high levels of Facebook use and bad relationship outcomes.  This is especially the case if a person is fighting with their spouse about the amount of time they spend on the network site(s).

So, given all the potential negatives, does this mean Suzeanne should give up her Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts and give away her smartphone?  Not necessarily.

What this information points to is that Suzeanne needs to be careful about how she uses social media, and she needs to be aware of the risks.  A social network site like Facebook is neither inherently bad or good.  It’s a communication tool.  Like any tool, it can be used constructively or destructively.

Suzanne just needs to take a step back and ask if social media is helping her reach her goals, or if it’s robbing her of potential.  Hey—that would be a pretty good question for us to ask ourselves as well.

Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)
23 Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.

Check out my post: “Five Tips to Help Your Family Survive Social Media” HERE

 

Sources I consulted:

Kramer, A., Guillory, J., & Hancock, J. (2014). Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 8788-8790.

Smith, J., & Clayton, R. (2013). Cheating, Breakup, and Divorce: Is Facebook Use to Blame? Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, X(X).

Steers, M., Wickham, R., & Acitelli, L. (n.d.). Seeing Everyone Else’s Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 701-731.

Viewing Violent News on Social Media Can Cause Trauma. (n.d.). Retrieved August 4, 2015, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150506164240.htm

profilepic Hi, my name is Jonathan Hoover and I have the privilege of serving NewSpring Church as Associate Pastor and Couples pastor.  One of my greatest passions in life is coaching struggling married couples, which led me in 2013 to release my first book “The Blindfolded Marriage.”  Here, at lifeinacrazyworld.com I blog about relationships, life challenges, and personal growth.  I’m glad you’ve come to visit my site.  If you liked what you read here, sign up to receive blog posts via email here.

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The Blindfolded Marriage will help you understand the root issues that create difficulty and conflict in your marriage. Full of practical insight you can start using right away, Jonathan's book will both equip and inspire you to take your relationship to the next level.

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott | Authors of The Good Fight

This book will give you clarity in marriage that will be an impetus and help drive the desire to be healthier as husband and wife. ...Read this book, I promise you will recommend it to your friends.

Johnny M. Hunt | Former President, Southern Baptist Convention Pastor, First Baptist Church Woodstock, GA

Jonathan's insights into marital breakdowns and marital repair are both profound AND easily understood. To take such difficult issues and put them into accessible stories and metaphors that speak to both genders makes this book a rarity among marriage books. Whether your marriage is good and you want to make it better, or if it feels like the wheels came off about 5 miles ago, this book will help everyone along that spectrum.

Anita Renfroe | Speaker, Author

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