Survey Finds Americans’ Social Media Habits Changing as National Tensions Rise

Experts say controlling exposure to social media stressors is vital to mental health

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – From a global pandemic to the movement to end racial inequality in our country, along with an endless amount of political issues and divisiveness, we’re living in a particularly contentious time in history. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by information, opinions and arguments, and nowhere is this more apparent than on social media. While it may seem impossible to disconnect and step away from the often toxic social media environment, a new national survey of 2,000 people by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center finds more Americans are making adjustments as national tensions rise. More than half say they’ve changed their social media habits this year, with one in five making a point to take breaks from these platforms altogether.

     “Stepping away and reconnecting with reality offline is an important step to take for your mental health,” said Ken Yeager, Ph.D., director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience (STAR) Program at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. “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 of time, it’s wearing on people’s ability to cope with that stress.”

     Yeager says there has been an increase in cases of depression, anxiety, suicidality and substance abuse over the past several months. And 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. You can start by closing your news feeds and reconnecting with friends and family on a personal level. You can also regain a sense of control and empowerment by taking actions like voting and volunteering with a cause you’re passionate about. 

     “Anything that you can do to make a contribution to our society is a very good thing to do right now because it helps to buffer the negative that we’re seeing on an ongoing basis,” Yeager said. 

         If you feel you’re regularly feeling panicked or having trouble controlling your mood or connecting with others, it’s a good idea to seek help from a mental health professional who can help you through this difficult time and help you find ways to cope.

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When the negativity of social media posts and comment sections becomes overwhelming, Andrea Koder feels empowered by volunteering for causes she cares about, like fostering shelter animals.

Ken Yeager, Ph.D., counsels a patient at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Yeager says the stress of being constantly connected to the negativity on social media during this contentious time in our country has led to an increase in depression and anxiety.

Andrea Koder has deleted social media apps from her phone to limit her access to negative and stressful content. A new survey from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center finds one in five Americans have forced themselves to take breaks from social media this year as national tensions rise.

Lee Meyers votes at a Columbus, Ohio polling location. Mental health experts say voting and volunteering are great ways to feel empowered when the stress of current events becomes overwhelming, especially on social media feeds where opinions and information constantly clash.

Andrea Koder takes a break from her screens to work in her garden. Because this is a particularly stressful time in history, experts at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center encourage everyone to unplug from the negativity on social media to care for their mental health.



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