Using Social Media to Cope With Stress May Cause More Stress


Sep 11, 2019


Social media stress is fuelling further compulsive usage of social media, according to a study published in the Information Systems Journal. The stress caused by social media, known as technostress, makes users switch from one aspect of a social medium to another (like direct messaging to scrolling through photos on Instagram) rather than switching off.

This switching between activities happens because the users seek a diversion within the same platform that caused the stress, as a coping mechanism. When stress prompts users to keep switching activities within apps rather than shutting down, it’s only a source of more stress, exhaustion, and eventual addiction, which is a vicious cycle.

“While it might seem counterintuitive, social media users are continuing to use the same platforms that are causing them stress rather than switching off from them, creating a blurring between the stress caused and the compulsive use,” said Monideepa Tarafdar, co-author of the study and a professor of Information Systems at Lancaster University Management School, in a statement.

Tarafar added, “The idea of using the same environment that is causing the stress as a means of coping with that stress is novel. It is an interesting phenomenon that seems distinctive to technostress from social media.”

Researchers looked into various forms of technostress, including users feeling like social networking platforms were taking over their lives, adapting social network use to conform to a peer group, experiencing information overload, too many social demands, and constant interface changes to social networking platforms.

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Insights obtained from the habits of 444 Facebook users revealed they switched between different activities on social media as soon as each caused stress. This meant they used the social medium for a longer period of time, which increased the likelihood of technology addiction and continued stress.

“We found that those users who had a greater social media habit needed less effort to find another aspect of the platforms, and were thus more likely to stay within the [social networking site] rather than switch off when they needed to divert themselves,” said Sven Laumer, co-author of the study, and the Deputy Director of the Dr. Theo und Friedl Schöller Research Center, in a statement.

Laumer added, “The stronger the user’s [social media] habit, the higher the likelihood they would keep using it as a means of diversion as a coping behavior in response to stressors, and possibly develop an addiction to the [platform].”


Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is a culture writer at The Swaddle. Previously, she worked as a freelance journalist focused on gender and cities. Find her on social media @aditimurti.


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