by Aaron Earls
FOMO may be no more when it comes to social media.
In 2013, FOMO (the acronym for “fear of missing out”) was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Many assumed social media, and the ever scrolling Facebook timeline or Twitter feed, was fueling much of the anxiety—that someone somewhere was having fun when you weren’t.
But a new study from Pew Research found frequent Internet and social media users did not have higher stress levels and, in fact, some technologies produced lower stress in women.
When it comes to reported stress levels for men, social media makes no statistical difference.
For women, however, Twitter use, email use, and photo sharing via cellphones resulted in a 21 percent lower stress score than a woman who does not use these technologies at all, according to Pew.
Compared with non-social media users, the average social media user: has more close friends; has more trust in people; feels more supported; and is more politically involved. These benefits outweigh whatever stress may be brought about through social media.
The times when technology use leads to increased stress levels centered around increased awareness of potentially stressful events in the lives of others and the so-called “cost of caring.”
On average, a woman who is aware that:
- Someone close to them experienced the death of a child, partner, or spouse scored 14 percent higher on their own measure of stress, holding other things constant.
- Someone close has been hospitalized or experienced a serious accident or injury reported 5 percent higher psychological stress.
- An acquaintance had been accused of or arrested for a crime scored 11 percent higher on the stress measure.
- An acquaintance experienced a demotion or cut in pay reported 9 percent higher levels of psychological stress.
For men, of the events explored, only two predicted stress. On average, men who were aware that:
- Someone close to them had been accused of or arrested or a crime reported 15 percent higher on our measure of psychological stress.
- An acquaintance had experienced a demotion or pay cut at work report 12 percent higher stress.
For both men and women, the Pew study found no relationship between their own stress and awareness of more positive events in their friends’ lives, such as an engagement or marriage.
The awareness of potentially stressful events increased for social media users. In fact, awareness increased with the use of every type of technology mentioned in the study.
In general, the study found “social media users are not any more likely to feel stress than others, but there is a subgroup of social media users who are more aware of stressful events in their friends’ lives and this subgroup of social media users does feel more stress.”
When Americans get stressed, according to Lifeway Research, most (52 percent) turn to someone who will listen, 45 percent turn within themselves, 36 percent pray, and 25 percent read the Bible.
Aaron Earls (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.