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Social media only has a ‘tiny’ effect on how happy we are

Happy endless scrolling everyone!

A study has found that time spent on social media only has a tiny effect on the wellbeing of young people, despite popular belief to the contrary. Research conducted using 12,000 teenagers found that their family, friends, and school life, all had more of an impact on their life satisfaction than social media use.

Endlessly scrolling through floating hand cooking tutorials and your ex’s Instagram stories appears to have little effect on wellbeing, according to Professor Andrew Przybylski and Amy Orben, from the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford. Their research claims that the effect of social media use accounts for approximately 1 per cent of a teenager’s wellbeing.

Professor Przybylski, the director of research at the institute, said: “99.75 per cent of a person's life satisfaction has nothing to do with their use of social media,” adding that the links between life-satisfaction and its use were “trivial”. Technology is becoming increasingly pervasive in young people’s lives, and the effects of social media use are a growing concern to parents and teachers, but current research on the relationship between teens, screen time, and quality of life is often contradictory.

Dazed investigated the relationship between social media and mental health as part of a five-day campaign Mental Health: Beyond Awareness, citing research by the Royal Society for Public Health which marked social media as being damaging to young people’s wellbeing, ranking Instagram as the worst offender.

Findings like this are common; in October last year, a study published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports found that young people who spend more than seven hours a day hooked to their screens are twice as likely to develop depression and anxiety as those who spend just one hour a day on their screens. Yikes!

But, “parents shouldn't worry about time on social media – thinking about it that way is wrong,” claims professor Przbylski. Ms Orben, the co-author of the research, has called on media companies to release user data to help greater understand the influence of social media on wellbeing: “Access is key to understanding the many roles that social media plays in the lives of young people,” she said.

To find out more about young people and mental health you can read our campaign Mental Health: Beyond Awareness.