The reason for this is because those over the age of 30 are more likely to dwell on the direction in which their life is going and whether or not they have achieved their personal goals. “In their desire to validate accomplishments, many middle-aged adults may look to high school peers (i.e. those who roughly had the same starting line) as a point of comparison,” wrote the study’s authors, led by Dr. Bruce Hardy of Temple University, in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
The study, which was based on data collected from a social survey of nearly 750 people, went on to explain, “As most people present themselves hyper-positively online, social comparisons are unrealistic and may deteriorate self-worth and mental well-being.” (Related: Researchers have ranked Instagram as the worst social media app for young people’s mental health.)
Considering the fact that millennials are some of the heaviest social media users on the Internet, it would make sense that young people are the ones that are most likely to report mental health problems. However, according to the study: “Millennials have spent their entire lives with digital media. Because they and their social media ‘friends’ have grown together online, social comparison may produce less stark and shocking contrast between them and their peers compared to older adults who adopted social media after losing contact with many of their peers.” (Related: A former Facebook executive has argued that social media is ripping society apart.)
How social media affects your health
The findings of this study contribute to the broader idea that social media usage, while beneficial in some ways, can actually be more harmful than most people even realize. Such was the argument made in a recent article published by Sabrina Barr of The Independent, which outlined six ways that social media negatively affects your mental health.
As you scroll down the Facebook news feed or look at picture after picture on Snapchat, it’s often hard not to compare yourself to others. As such, many people define happiness as how they look relative to others. This can have a serious effect on self-esteem and self-worth.
Today, there are just as many – if not more – relationships being formed on social media than in real life. As a result, people are becoming less and less skilled at communicating in person and traditional human connection is slowly becoming obsolete.
If you have Facebook or Instagram, chances are you’ve gone back and looked at your old pictures and videos a time or two. However, it’s important to remember that when we post on social media, we tend to post pictures or videos that make us look as happy and attractive as possible (photo filters, crafty editing, etc.). Thus, when we go back and look at these posts, it often distorts reality and alters our memory of how those events really occurred.
Many of us are so addicted to social media that we can’t stop scrolling even when we climb into bed for the night. This limits our ability to get enough rest, which in turn can have an impact on how we function throughout the day.
The amount of information we now have access to as a result of social media actually limits our attention span and causes us to become easily distracted. Doctors recommend training yourself to exercise will power by intentionally not checking your phone for five minutes at a time throughout the day.
As Dr. Bruce Hardy of Temple University found in his study, social media usage can lead to mental health issues and general unhappiness, especially among middle-aged adults. Perhaps it is time to put down the smartphones, close the laptops, and get away from sites like Facebook and Twitter, even if it’s only for a few hours each day.