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Positive Effects of Social Media


by Yael Dror, M.A.

 

            There are many positive effects of social media. However, the most prominent established in the current literature of research are social support, perceived social support, reduced isolation, and the need to belong. Social media can be used for three main coping strategies: social support seeking, improving stress-induced negative emotions such as distracting oneself and venting, and problem-solving stress-evoking issues (Wolfers & Utz, 2022). Social media can be a helpful coping mechanism to allow individuals to self-express and communicate with others experiencing similar things and access motivational content (Berry et al., 2018). Platforms such as Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook allow individuals to participate in positive social interactions with family and friends as a source of social support, which can alleviate depressive symptoms (Bessière et al., 2010; Robinson et al., 2019).  Despite being online and not in real life, social media can provide a sense of community for individuals who are looking for more social support and assistance.

            Perceived social support is similar to real social support, it is what the individual assumes from their life perspective rather than real-life social support from family, friends, and community. Perceived social support can decrease feelings of loneliness in individuals (Lin et al., 2021). A higher level of perceived social support can often lead to satisfactory social interactions, resulting in improved mental health and reduced psychological distress (Lin et al., 2021). Loneliness is a risk factor for poor mental health; however, a high level of perceived social support, despite not being concrete, is likely to prevent an individual from developing poor mental health (Lin et al., 2021). Overall, any form of social support, perceived or not, can be beneficial for individuals who feel they are lacking support in their lives.

Social media offers opportunities to find friends, reduce social isolation, and receive social support. Online relationships are regarded as closer, more secure, and less intimidating than real-life friendships; they can also reduce perceived loneliness (Kırcaburun et al., 2019; Young, 1998). Online activities such as engaging in communities, sharing photos, and communicating with real-life friends can be associated with lower levels of loneliness and less psychological distress (Henzel & Håkansson 2021). Social media can provide a sense of socialization and a sense of community that might not be as accessible in real life through online platforms.

A feeling of belonging emphasizes one’s sense of connectedness to their environment, community, and direct microsystem. The need to belong is defined as a general desire to connect with others and important groups (Leary & Downs, 1995). Social media platforms have different ways of providing individuals with a feeling of belonging. For example, Facebook can be used to satisfy the need to belong (Nadkarni & Hofmann, 2012). Instagram is another example of how social media can be used for self-expression, social interaction, knowledge of others, documentation, coolness, and creativity (Sheldon & Bryant, 2016). Another example of social media evoking a feeling of belongingness is how Snapchat can be used for communication with the direct and immediate environment (Piwek & Joinson, 2016). Social media can assist individuals in feeling more connected and involved with the system around them by providing opportunities for self-expression and the ability to interact with others.


References


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Henzel, V., & Håkansson, A. (2021). Hooked on virtual social life. Problematic social media use

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