Social media & your mood
Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes or alchohol...so what does it do to your mood? Here's what the research tells us...
While using social networks helps many people feel more connected to peers, more free in their self-expression, and more aware of others’ experiences, others experience intense envy and may have greater struggles with depression, low self-worth and other mental health challenges.
- Research has found a direct link between social media use and mood disorders like anxiety and depression, but acknowledges that the relationship is complex and bi-directional.
- Increasing amounts of Facebook use among first-year college students have been associated with higher levels of loneliness.
- With 90% of college-aged students comparing themselves with peers within 15 minutes of waking up, social media sites set many people up for negative self perception before they even get out of bed.
- In a survey of 1,500 young adults on the impact of social media on issues such as anxiety, depression, self-identity and body image, YouTube was found to have the most positive impact, while Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter all demonstrated negative effects overall on young people's mental health.
Social media & body image
If you’ve ever walked away from time on social media feeling more flawed, less interesting, or less well-liked than your peers, you're far from alone.
When looking at social media, it’s easy to forget that a lot of thought has gone into curating one’s identity, which can be a set up for negative self-comparison.
While most of us have come to expect that pictures of famous people - celebrities, athletes, models - have been digitally touched-up, it's easy to forget that friends and acquaintances have access to some of those same tools. This can leave us vulnerable to physical comparisons and primed to feel inadequate or unhappy.
7 in 10 college women and more than 5 in 10 college men who post photos on social media admit to touching them up first
Nearly half who edit pictures of themselves enhance their looks by removing blemishes or adding color to look less pale. Approximately 1 in 8 admit to editing because they aren’t happy with how they look in general, while about 6% edit to make themselves look thinner.
Those who more frequently edit photos of themselves before posting report greater degrees of body dissatisfaction, eating concerns, and dieting behaviors.
In 2016, a study of 50 “fitspiration” websites revealed messaging that was often indistinguishable from pro-anorexia or “thinspiration” sites.
The strong language both types of sites used was shown to induce guilt about weight or the body, and promote dieting, restraint, and the stigmatization of all but a narrow range of body types.
And of course, comparisons aren't limited to attractiveness. As the New York Times noted earlier this year, while we know that "everybody else can’t possibly be as successful, rich, attractive, relaxed, intellectual and joyous as they appear to be on Facebook," our friends' posts tell another story. It's hard to resist the pull of accounts that seem so believable, but don't let social media make you miserable.
When you are struggling with balancing exams, hobbies and a social life, it seems like everyone else is #Blessed, able to #LiveAuthentic and find more #Fitspiration than the rest of us
...but the truth is, the data suggest that they're probably struggling too. Read on to learn how you can learn to live more mindfully with social media.
How can you be more mindful with social media?
By using a few simple strategies, you may be able to reduce the negative emotions and compulsive behaviors associated with social media use, and find ways to enjoy it more fully:
- Before you post, know your intentions. Are you looking for appreciation, inclusion, approval, reassurance? Or maybe something else? If you’re looking to be seen or validated, ask yourself, “Is there something more constructive I could do to meet that need?”
- Limit the time you spend on social media each day. Research shows that people who spend more than two hours per day on social media have significantly lower self-esteem than those who don’t.
- Be curious about the stories your mind makes up as you scroll. When something comes up, ask yourself if it’s helpful for you to believe that story. Is it helpful for you to think you’re not good enough? Is it helpful for you to judge that other person’s choices or life, or to compare your life to theirs?
- If you notice that you’re struggling a lot with envy or comparison, counseling can help! Support is available at no cost through the UW Counseling Center and Hall Health Mental Health Clinic. If you're not sure if counseling is for you, you can also check out the popular Let's Talk Program held at several convenient campus locations.
- Finally, if you need a laugh after all this, check out @SocalityBarbie or @CelesteBarber's on point Instagram parodies of the curated way we tend to represent ourselves online.
Use a site or mobile app such as Tinder, Match, OKCupid, Grindr or Coffee Meets Bagel?
Over the last few years, more college students - 1 in 3 - are using online dating sites and apps as a way to find friends, dating relationships or hookups. While many of the have positive experiences, safety and privacy are common concerns. 45% of people who look for a date online agree it's a more dangerous way of meeting people than alternatives, so learn how to protect yourself with these tips for safe(r) online dating!
What's at risk?
- Your personal safety when meeting someone in person who you met online
- People masquerading as someone else, spam, and other types of fraud
- Photo or video blackmail, where fraudsters use images or video you have shared with them, or recordings of live chat sessions that may depict sexual behavior or other private material, to extort money
- Phishing emails claiming to be from an online dating site and encouraging you to divulge personal information
- Potential theft of your money if you do not use a secure link when making payments
- Stalking, harassment and coercive control
Learn to recognize technology-enabled coercive control
Abusers may use various technologies such as call and text records on your cell phone, GPS, social and dating sites and other digital 'footprints' to stalk, harass, spy or eavesdrop on, and control someone they are currently romantically and/or sexually involved with, an ex, or a romantic interest whose feelings don't match their own.
The goal of the abuser may be controlling a survivor, isolating them from friends and family, or damaging their credibility, work or social life, or deterring the victim's other prospective partner(s).
If you or someone you know think you may be experiencing harassment or abuse using technology, learn how to document what is happening and contact UW's Health & Wellness office, whose experienced staff can assist those who are worried about the possible abuse or harassment of themselves or someone they know.
Other tips you may find helpful while looking for a date or hookup online:
- Limit the personal data you reveal
- Look for red flags in potential 'matches'
- Check for mutual friends on social media
- Meet in a public place
- Talk before the date
- Tell someone about your plans and where you'll be
- Be selective in choosing a user name so that you don't inadvertently reveal personal details such as your address
- Reach out for support from friends, family or others you trust if you need it at any point in the process
- Trust your instincts
Real talk about doxing and swatting
Since you were a kid, you've heard plenty of reasons why you think about your online privacy and be cautious about the information you put "out there", but if you're like most Americans, doxing and swatting haven't been on your radar until the past few years, if at all.
What is doxing?
In short, the term (which is based on the 90's phrase "dropping docs") refers to the practice of revealing identifying information about someone else — such as their full or real name, home address, phone number, social security number or other details — generally in order to take revenge, to "out" an anonymous poster, or to otherwise cause harm.
But what about swatting?
You might be less familiar with swatting, an emerging and dangerous form of harassment that bridges on- and offline worlds, defined by the National 911 program as:
"False reporting an emergency to public safety by a person for the intent of getting a "SWAT team” response to a location where no emergency exists."
A swatter will usually call 911 reporting that they are currently involved in or witnessing a serious crime such as a "home invasion, active shooter, or hostage situation, attempting to muster the largest response possible. Often, the law enforcement response is substantial, with police confronting the unsuspecting victims at gunpoint, only to learn that there is no real emergency."
According to The Verge, "the FBI estimates have identified around 400 swatting attacks a year, based on calls from local law enforcement; interviews of accused swatters; and social media audits capturing perpetrators bragging about it," but the actual figures may be much higher.
Read more about these two unique forms of online harassment, real life examples of doxing and swatting, and more ideas about how you can protect yourself.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
While you may never find yourself as a victim of doxing or swatting, it's important to know what steps to take to make yourself less vulnerable to online attacks.
- First and foremost, it’s important to be aware of your digital footprint.
- It’s a good practice to Google your name from time to time to ensure that there isn’t readily available sensitive information you would not choose to disclose about yourself. If there is, you can take action to have that information removed (check out this page and this page for some ideas of where to start).
- Avoid positing sensitive or identifying information on social media sites.
- Do not leave your personal mobile phone number on an out of office reply or work voicemail message.
- Be aware of tools that use your location information, geotags, etc, especially for sites you frequent, your home address, workplace.
- Use appropriate privacy settings.
Our favorite tech tools & resources for online safety
Tech Safety App
DIY Online Security & Support
This guide is written for folks who have concerns about someone tracking, stalking or using technology-enabled coercive control, but it can also be used by anyone who is interested in reducing their privacy risks online.
HeartMob, a project of the nonprofit Hollaback! is an online platform set up to help people experiencing online abuse or coercive control to report abuse across social networks and receive the kind of support they need, when they need it, from others who have 'been there'.
Social Media Safety Resources
A Guide to Staying Safe on Facebook - provides quick and easy explanations of important settings to increase privacy and security. The Safety & Privacy on Facebook Guide for Survivors of Abuse is a more detailed resource that provides step-by-step assistance to users who are experiencing harassment or concerned about their privacy and safety.
YouTube tools that aim to reduce online harassment, including tools that enable account holders to disable comments on their content as well as block posting of their own personal data by others.
A new Snapchat shares your location every time you snap. Learn more about going into “Ghost Mode” to prevent this.
Tips on safety with social media and internet security. Legal responses to technology misuse, including the differences between criminal and civil court cases, and how each addresses technology misuse.
Safety Net Project - works to address how the intersection of technology and intimate partner abuse impacts the safety, privacy, accessibility, and civil rights of victims.
Make social media work for you during your job search
- In addition to LinkedIn, think about other ways to showcase your work such as online portfolios.
- Make sure the information on your social media does not contradict your LinkedIn profile.
- Check your privacy settings on your social media.
- Ask yourself, “Does my online identity represent what I want employers to see?"
Did you know the UW Career & Internship Center can help you with managing your online presence when looking for a job?
By connecting with the Career & Internship Center, you can learn to manage your digital presence during the job search and use technology to your advantage. You'll also find customized resources related to your major, career goals and class standing.
- More on managing your digital presence, creating your own website to showcase your work, and curating information in a way that will help you land that coveted next job or internship
- Use Explore UW on LinkedIn to see profiles of UW students and alumni, and get connected