Americans social media habits changing with rising national tensions

It's important to recognize how it may affect you.

According to a new survey of 2,000 people commissioned by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, more Americans are adjusting the way they use social media platforms as national tensions rise.

Numerous members referred to stress from the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, alongside the movement to end racial inequality and other troublesome political issues in the nation as reasons for taking a social media break.

The survey found:

  • 56% of Americans reported changes in social media habits because of tensions surrounding current events this year.
  • 29% of Americans reported an increase in the use of social media because of tensions surrounding current events this year.
  • 20% of Americans reported that they’d taken breaks from social media.

Ken Yeager, Ph.D., director of the Stress, Trauma, and Resilience (STAR) Program at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, said“Stepping away and reconnecting with reality offline is an important step to take for your mental health. Being constantly immersed in this stressful environment and being overexposed to contentious or traumatic events can make you feel like the world is a less safe place to be. And because these stressors have persisted over a long period, it’s wearing on people’s ability to cope with that stress.”

“Across the United States, there’s been an increase in cases of depression, anxiety, suicidality, and substance abuse over the past several months.”

“Even though you can’t control what happens on social media, it’s important to recognize how it may affect you and take steps to limit your exposure.”

Yeager offered some tips to go on a social media diet:

Reconnect with family and friends – Disconnect from your devices and stop scrolling on social media for a night. Instead, make plans with the people you care about, even if that’s a group Zoom call. An evening of friendly conversation can be a welcome break from social media.

  • Create positive change in your community – Volunteer at a food bank, clean up a park, or do anything that makes your neighborhood a better place. Seeing the good that you and others in your community are doing can help you realize what’s truly important.
  • Use your power – Not only do you have the power of your vote, but you also can voice your concerns and enact local change. Get involved in the issues that are important to you. Feeling like you’re part of the process can be empowering and calming.
  • Talk about it – There can be a lot of misunderstandings in conversations about the most significant issues we are facing now, especially when they take place in social media comment sections. Talking to family and friends one-on-one about what is important to them and how they believe these issues affect them can help you understand where they’re coming from.

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