There have been lots of headlines lately warning that social media could be changing our brains and messing with our attention spans. But, a new study from the Pew Research Center has come up with a very different finding. It turns out, women who spend a moderate amount of time on their phones every day answering email, tweeting, or posting pics to Facebook actually have 21% less stress than those who don’t. That's right: You’re doing yourself a favor by posting those selfies on Instagram.
The researchers haven’t pinpointed an exact reason why social media can decrease stress. They do posit that those who are active on social media tend to trust in people and feel more supported in their lives. Being connected to others online gives them a feeling of community.
Of course, bad news in your feed has the opposite effect. Unsurprisingly, women who had a friend post about being accused of or arrested for a crime had an 11% uptick in stress; posts about pay cuts or demotions caused a 9% uptick. News about a friend losing a spouse or being hospitalized also elevated stress levels in women — but interestingly, not in men. In fact, the study found that women are generally more aware of stressful events in their friends' lives than men are.