Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat... it sometimes seems as if our lives are dominated by social media platforms both at work and at home. 

As the opportunities to connect continue to grow (who would have thought that communicating with pictures that disappear after 5 seconds would become the new normal?), the sheer volume of platforms and people can seem daunting and add stress to our already busy lives. 

Social media has often been linked to increases in stress, anxiety and some forms of mental illnesses, but how true are these claims? We look to place blame on our everyday stresses, and the easiest to point the finger at is social media.

Here are 5 things that may surprise you about what you think social media is doing to your life:

 Social Media Does Not Increase Your Stress Levels 

Busting a myth of the most popular old wives tale of the 21st century, a study by Pew Research Centre and Rutgers University shows that there was no evidence that people using social media like Facebook and Twitter feel more stress than people who use digital technology less or not at all.

...But It Does Make You More Aware Of Other People's Stress

With some social media sites, such a Facebook, your awareness of friends and close acquaintances' stress increases. This 'cost of caring' is more likely to affect women rather than men, according to the Pew Research Centre study.

Women Can Sometimes Feel LESS Stressed When Using Social Media 

Although men don't feel as big of a difference in stress levels, when the women in the Pew Research Centre study used platforms like Twitter, email and photo sharing, their stress levels actually reduced. This is believed to be due to an increased sense of social wellbeing that comes from sharing good as well as bad events. 

However, we need to take these results with a pinch of salt. Although social media does not make us more stressed, this doesn't mean that conastantly using platforms such as Facebook is good for our overall mental health. 

Facebook Makes People Unhappy 

A study from the University of Michigan in 2012 researched how the use of Facebook correlated with moods. They found that the participants who used Facebook more were unhappier and less satisfied with their lives than the participants who used it less frequently. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have also found that the longer you spend online, the more likely you are to be depressed – a case for the end of Facebook stalking if ever we have heard one!

Social Media Increases Social Pressure Stress For Young People

Children and teenagers’ relationship with social media is very different to adults and can sometimes cause very serious problems for a child’s mental wellbeing. For example, a recent study by a charity for Internet safety, Enough is Enough, found that an astounding 95% of teenagers had witnessed cyber bullying, and 33% have been victims themselves.

So, although it's true that social media does not increase our stress levels when used sporadically, this is no reason to become complacent about its overall effect on our mental health, particularly in regards to teenagers and children. As always, a healthy balance is key – just make sure you are controlling your social media, and not the other way round!

Read next: The Healing Power Of A Simple Hug!

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