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A closer look at the effects of increased computer interaction on stress and anxiety levels

Trains and industrial machinery were seen as noisy disruptors of pastoral village life that put people on edge.

  1. The broad patterns are.
  2. The relationship of frequent use of digital technologies to stress has been an unknown.
  3. This research explores whether the use of social media, mobile phones and the internet is associated with higher levels of stress.

Telephones interrupted quiet times in homes. Watches and clocks added to the de-humanizing time pressures on factory workers to be productive.

Inevitably, the critics have shifted their focus onto digital technology. There has been considerable commentary about whether internet use in general and social media use in particular are related to higher levels of stress.

This research explores whether the use of social media, mobile phones and the internet is associated with higher levels of stress. Perceived stress, as measured through the PSS, can be viewed as an assessment of the risk that people face for psychological disorders related to stress, such as anxiety and depression, as well as physical illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and susceptibility to infectious diseases.

There are a number of well-known factors that tend to make people feel more stress, including things like the economic uncertainty of unemployment, and the absence of a spouse or a partner with whom to confide.

The relationship of frequent use of digital technologies to stress has been an unknown. We also explored the possibility that the social component of some digital technologies makes people more aware of stressful events in the lives of their close friends and family, as well as in the lives of more socially distant acquaintances, and that this in turn is related to higher levels of stress.

The survey analysis produced two major findings that illustrate the complex interplay of digital technology and stress: Overall, frequent internet and social media users do not have higher levels of stress. In fact, for women, the opposite is true for at least some digital technologies.

  • The broad patterns are;
  • We do not know what it is about these specific technology uses that are associated with lower stress;
  • The cost of caring is particularly felt by women;
  • For example, other studies have found that cellphones and instant messaging are more likely to be used with family and close friends.

Holding other factors constant, women who use Twitter, email and cellphone picture sharing report lower levels of stress. At the same time, the data show there are circumstances under which the social use of digital technology increases awareness of stressful events in the lives of others. The relationship between stress and social media use is indirect.

  • Because men and women tend to experience stress differently, we ran each of our analyses separately for men and for women;
  • While the little sips of information sent through social media may not seem like much, they can add up to a big gulp;
  • Consequences, coping, and care;
  • Men reported an average score of 9;
  • Elaborating on the Major Findings Overall, women tend to report more stress than men.

Imagine a typical Facebook user. He or she is also likely to use other digital technologies, such as email and text messaging. All these technologies allow him or her to share information with friends and family in the form of photos, short textual messages and other contacts.

As a result of this communication, he or she is aware and reminded of more activities in the lives of friends and family. On the one hand, there are benefits from this contact. While some might assume that this typical user of Facebook and other digital technologies experiences peer pressure to participate or keep up, and a fear of missing out, if such pressures exist, our typical user does not feel more stress than what he or she would otherwise have experienced, or the social benefit of using these technologies cancels out those additional costs.

He or she is unlikely to feel more stress than those who are not using or are less active on social media. On the other hand, there is the common exception to this relatively positive situation.

Learning of such events in the life of a friend or family member can result in higher feelings of stress. Gender differences are a major part of this story. Women and men have different levels of stress; their use of digital technologies varies; and the impact of their technology use is different. The broad patterns are: Overall, women tend to report more stress than men.

But, those women who use a number of digital technologies to communicate with others tend to report less stress than women who do not use these technologies. Women are more aware of stressful events in the lives of their closest friends and family.

Social media use is related to even higher levels of awareness of the stressful events that unfold in the lives of people they know. It is the only factor that we found that is common to both social media use and psychological stress. The number of undesirable events associated with stress is greater for women than for men.

Elaborating on the Major Findings Overall, women tend to report more stress than men. But, women who use a number of digital technologies to communicate with others report less stress than women who are non-users.

In this survey, women report an average score of 10. Men reported an average score of 9. Because men and women tend to experience stress differently, we ran each of our analyses separately for men and for women. We did statistical modeling allowing us to more fully understand the relationship between stress and the use of different technologies. The use of regression analysis allowed us to control for such things as age, unemployment, education levels and marital status — all of which are related to how much stress people tend to report in their lives independent of whether they use technologies or not.

However, some tech activities were linked to less stress among women — Twitter use, email use and photo sharing via cellphones. We do not know what it is about these specific technology uses that are associated with lower stress. However, existing studies have found that social sharing of both positive and negative events can be associated with emotional well-being and that women tend to share their emotional experiences with a wider range of people than do men.

It is also possible that the use of these media replaces activities or allows women to reorganize activities that would otherwise be more stressful. In the survey we asked people if they were aware of whether any of a list of 12 stressful events had happened to someone close to them, an acquaintance, or both in the past year.

The events were selected from a list of major life events that are known social stressors.

  • There are a number of well-known factors that tend to make people feel more stress, including things like the economic uncertainty of unemployment, and the absence of a spouse or a partner with whom to confide;
  • On the one hand, there are benefits from this contact;
  • The broad patterns are;
  • Watches and clocks added to the de-humanizing time pressures on factory workers to be productive;
  • This study suggests that the information transferred through social media translates into awareness of all kinds of extra things, including an awareness of undesirable events in the lives of family, friends and acquaintances;
  • For example, other studies have found that cellphones and instant messaging are more likely to be used with family and close friends.

Of the 12 stressful events that we studied, on average, women were aware of a larger number of events that had occurred among people they knew. Social media users tend to be more aware of stressful events in the lives of people they know. Different technologies are associated with varying levels of awareness of stressful events that have occurred to others — and there is also variation depending on whether the events have occurred to those who are close ties, compared with more-distant acquaintances.

Facebook was the one technology that for both men and women provides higher levels of awareness of stressful events taking place in the lives of both close and more distant acquaintances.

Other technologies are more specialized: It is not a new finding that people tend to use different technologies to communicate with social ties of different strengths.

For example, other studies have found that cellphones and instant messaging are more likely to be used with family and close friends. For men, awareness was particularly likely to be related to email, LinkedIn and text messaging on their cellphone. These patterns are a result of both the tendency for men and women to use different technologies, and for them to use different technologies to keep in touch with different types of people — friends, family, workmates and acquaintances.

The cost of caring is particularly felt by women. This is a result of two facts about women and stress: For men, of the events we explored, only two predicted stress. While the little sips of information sent through social media may not seem like much, they can add up to a big gulp. This study suggests that the information transferred through social media translates into awareness of all kinds of extra things, including an awareness of undesirable events in the lives of family, friends and acquaintances.

The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 2. Some 1,076 respondents are users of social networking sites and the margin of error for that subgroup is plus or minus 3. Huffington Post; Maldonado, Marissa accessed November 2014.

The Anxiety of Facebook.

Social Media and the Cost of Caring

As part of our survey, participants could report on their use of a large number of different technologies related to social media, cellphones, and the internet more broadly. We did not have a specific expectation as to which of these uses might be related to stress or awareness of stressful events. Stepwise forward regression is a procedure that allows you to test the possible relationships between a large number of measures and an outcome such as stress. For each analysis, we removed independent variables for technology use at each step that were not statistically significant.

Disclosing and sharing emotion: Psychological, social, and health consequences. Handbook of bereavement research: Consequences, coping, and care. New Tech, New Ties.