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Social Media Effects on Wellbeing: Be active and yes, post these positive Selfies

How research data rather encourages Social Media users to be active instead of passive

I love Social Media. Whereas other mums tell their teenagers constantly off since they are on their phones 24/7 monitoring and feeding Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and the like, my three sons tell their mum off.

When I tell them that I am on Social Media because that is part of what I do for work, they usually roll their eyes and – feeling a bit guilty since it’s indeed not always for professional reasons – I quickly put my phone away. Though admittedly not too far!

In general, I find life online a positive experience and use modern technology and Social Media as a way to keep in touch with friends and family, many of them living overseas in different time zones. I also use it to stay in touch with readers of my own publication and to help small businesses to get their name out there and reach the customers and clients they need. As such I fit in perfectly in the research results a new survey by the Australian Psychological Society (APS) reveals. The results have just arrived in form of a media release in my email inbox.

Relying on mobile phones to use Social Media

The Digital Me survey released last week explored how Social Media and technology is affecting the wellbeing of Australians. More than 1,000 adults and 150 teens aged 14 – 17 years were surveyed.

Not surprisingly, the survey revealed that 90% of Australians surveyed use social media, with Facebook and You Tube the most popular channels across all age groups. Both teens and adults use Social Media throughout the day, including meal times and in the company of others. A high percentage of adults and teens use Social Media before they go to bed and no matter how old they are, they increasingly rely on their mobile phones to make significant use of Social Media throughout the day.

Being active has mental health benefits

However, the most interesting part of the media release for me, was a link to an article on the APS website with 8 tips for a healthy digital life. Tip No 3: “Passive use of social media often leads to increased stress, social comparison, and envy. But being an active, constructive and respectful contributor has been shown to have mental health benefits by building positive social connection.”

Their advice is: “Actively create an online world tailored to your interests and values. Seek out social connections that boost your wellbeing rather than undermine it, just as you would offline.”

I love this tip! Why? Because, yes! It has happened to me too! And certainly to you – unless you belong to the 10 percent of Australians who apparently do not use Social Media. You opened your Facebook app, see your friends in tropical settings, feet up underneath beautiful palm trees, cocktail in their hands watching a magnificent sunset over the ocean and you are stuck at your desk in Melbourne’s cold, windy, rainy weather. You know what I mean! No need for me to go into further details or pull out more green envy evoking examples.

Becoming active can shift your away from negative towards positive

Two choices: you can dwell on your own misery, flick through more posts that might drag you down and remain a passive observer or get active and post yourself! An ironical comment for example if you are frustrated. Or one that shows that you are happy for your friends in Fiji paradise because they simply deserve it!

I guarantee that the latter will shift your mindset towards a much more positive state of mind. Just like becoming physically active can shift you from a negative towards a positive mindset simply by moving your body. If you don’t believe me you probably have not yet read the section about morning routines in Tim Ferris’ magnificent book “Tools of Titans”. What you also do with posting is, you draw your focus away from the other person’s post. Something which has a positive effect on you.

Presenting yourself positively on Facebook? Why not?

Hooked by the statement that being active on Social Media has been shown to have mental health benefits, I researched the topic a bit further until I came across a study by Erin Vogel and Jason Rose published in the Journal “Translational issues in Psychological Science” in September 2016. The pair discussed research on the psychological consequences of Social Network Sites with a focus on self-presentation effecting the well-being of a Social Media User.

Their findings: Facebook users tend to present themselves positively. Well, that is not a big surprise! However it might actually not be such a bad thing, even if especially critics of Facebook users often criticise and complain about it.

Focusing on others’ idealised images is harmful

Why? Vogel and Rose also found that the psychological impact of the use of Social Media depends on whether a user’s activities are self-focused or focused on others. Should he or she focus on presenting a positive self-image, this will in general lead to beneficial outcomes. Focusing on others’ “idealised images” typically leads to harmful outcomes.

In other words: Again, being active on e.g. Facebook is actually more beneficial than just following what others post. In addition, just focusing on posting positively about yourself and your life is actually good for you!

Being mindful and grateful

And why wouldn’t it? In a time where so much talk is about being mindful and grateful, could posting something positive about yourself not fulfil the same purpose? You post something positive because you are mindful of and grateful for it! As a consequence you channel your focus on something positive which – as we all know – is good for our heart, soul and body – your wellbeing in general!

Something positive on your mind is ten times better than having something negative on your mind. Equally being active is ten times better than being passive.

Yes, being on Social Media bears dangers. However, since almost everybody is on Social Media today, we might as well use them as best as we can and educate ourselves about them.

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