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Social Media Impacts on Mental Health

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Social Media Impacts on Mental Health

Google is more than happy to give you a thousand articles on the merits of social media in marketing. Heck, so are we. (Because we’re here to help!) But because we want to help, we also need to bring up the social media impacts on mental health.

It’s important to consider the effects of your own policies.

The landscape of platforms like Twitter and Facebook is not a serene one. Fierce debates rage across the spectrum on an endless list of issues. And you need to determine what’s best for your company regarding your social media policy.

Think of the strategies and tactics you use. Look closely at how your followers are engaging with you and each other. It is important to be keenly aware of this. If you don’t run your own professional social media channels and have delegated that to another employee, meet with that person. Discuss the interactions happening with your brand online. Have a conversation about how you appear to be impacting your followers with your content.

Can Social Media Impact Mental Health? 

Let’s take a look at some quick facts from research out of MIT related the social media impacts on mental health:

  • College-wide access to Facebook led to a rise in severe depression by 7% and a whopping 20% rise in anxiety disorder. 
  • An even larger swath of the most susceptible students also treated symptoms with either psychotherapy or antidepressants.
  • The negative effect of Facebook on mental health appeared to be about 20% of what is experienced by those who experience job loss. If you’ve ever lost your job, you know the resulting stress and anxiety can be quite powerful!
  • Researchers speculate that social comparison with peers is the cause of these issues.
  • That effect appears to grow more pronounced as people are exposed to Facebook for greater periods of time.

Here’s a takeaway: It’s important to know if your social media marketing is causing your followers to compare themselves to their peers.

Think it through.

Does your strategy play an unwitting role in their anxiety? (We use the word “unwitting” because, obviously, your intentions are good. You only want to grow your audience and find new customers to engage with.)

But meaning well isn’t enough.

Do Social Media Platforms Push Divisive Content? 

Now, being mindful of how you may cause people to compare themselves to their peers is only the beginning. Politics plays a big role, too. 

Politics connects strongly to current trends in company branding AND anxiety. There’s a lot to unpack here. So, let’s talk about it.

According to research shared by NPR, social media companies intentionally stir the pot when it comes to politics and other divisive issues. It appears as if these companies push content that evokes anger and outrage from its users.

Why? To maximize engagement.

Think of your own social media use: You likely spend longer interacting with posts where there’s a hot-button topic being discussed as opposed to something innocuous.

Anxiety is likely an emotion you feel when debating someone else on a point of view where you intensely disagree. And as the other person pushes back, things heat up.

The executives from the social media platform you’re using love that type of interaction, because it increases engagement, the amount of time spent on the platform and ad exposure. All at your emotional expense.

Many of us have been there. You’re not alone.

Does Politics on Social Media Cause Mental Health Issues?

Let’s talk about more the social media impacts on mental health. The American Psychological Association released data revealing that 54% of men and women who engage outlets like Facebook or Twitter report significant stress versus 45% of adults who do not use social media.

Healthy Minds NYC shared the following: “Likely the added stress for social media users is due to information overload and constant exposure to the onslaught of potentially vitriolic exchanges that can take place through digital communication.”

Research out of Harvard University’s Kennedy School shows that nearly half of 18-to-29-year-olds believe politics and/or the news media have had a negative effect on their mental health.

Social media anxiety is real. Politics plays a role. Think of anything you’re posting on your brand’s social media accounts that could cause anger and outrage from a certain portion of users. If you do this, you wouldn’t be alone. Not by a long shot.

Social Media Impact on Anxiety

Do Brands Make Political Posts on Social Media? 

The truth is that many businesses are injecting divisive topics, like politics, into their social media. Why? Because they believe it will help them attract customers. And to a degree, it works.

Let’s look at a few examples shared by ABC News:

  • Black Rifle Coffee works to appeal to conservatives. They brand themselves as “anti-hipster.”
  • Blue State Coffee appeals to liberals.
  • A dating app coming from former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s sister is called “The Right Stuff.” (Get it?)
  • OKCupid wants to attract “every single tree hugger.”

You may be tempted to follow suit if you’ve seen a study from Sprout Social that reveals an astounding 70% of consumers believe it’s important for brands to take a public stand on social and political issues. Seventy percent!

According to a 2018 survey from public relations firm Edelman, almost two-thirds of consumers around the globe will buy or boycott a brand solely due to its position on a social or political issue.

If you know your customer base tends to lean a certain way, we’re sure you’re at least tempted to take public stands on political and social issues — if you haven’t already.

As we become increasingly divided online, businesses are tempted to pick a side — with social media companies rewarding them for it. They want that engagement, as we discussed. They want people sticking around.

But while it may help those social media companies, it may be hurting your brand. The social media impacts on mental health are being noted. 

Are Political Posts Good for Brands? 

A May 2022 Temple University study looked at 435 major brands and 396,988 social media posts on the hotly debated subject of Black Lives Matter.

The results of the study showed that posting about BLM had a negative impact on consumer responses, such as followers and likes.

Results like these have opened the eyes of some company executives, who are pulling back on political messaging. But not everyone has changed, and the trend continues.

You may be tempted to hang onto that trend. Let’s look at some more data that breaks down some general audience feedback.

Forbes shared research that reveals:

  •       Forty percent of Gen Z and 43% of Millennials take a strong stance on political matters.
  •       Forty-six perecent of Gen X and 44% of Boomers feel it’s best for companies to stay out of the debate.
  •       Gen Z and Millennials believe companies that respond to current events are doing so because they truly care about their employees and customers.
  •       Gen X and Boomers slightly gravitate toward the opinion that companies are only doing so to avoid criticism or to follow the pack.

It matters who you’re targeting online. Millennials or Boomers?  

Are Social Media Companies Held Accountable? 

One newsworthy event you should know about is a new California law that has ignited heated discussion. Here’s the lowdown:

  •       Gavin Newsom put his signature to a bill that will require tech companies to publicly share their content moderation policies in relation to things like hate speech, disinformation and more.
  •       Republicans believe social media companies moderate too much.
  •       Democrats don’t think these organizations are doing enough.
  •       What falls under the banner of disinformation? There’s a lot to be debated.

If you don’t live in the Golden State, you may think this is irrelevant to you. But no so fast.

The Washington Post shared a study revealing more than 100 bills in state legislatures across the country focus on moderating social media content. More than 100. Across the country. 

Now, we’ve just shared a lot of information with you to consider. And we can’t make any decisions for you. It’s your company. It’s your brand. But we can advise you.

Where Can I Find Help for My Business’s Social Media? 

Like we stated in the beginning of this post, we’re here to help.  

Jennings Social Media & Martech (JSMM) has been on the cutting edge of social media marketing since 2005. We have helped dozens of brands grow their businesses using multi-channel strategy, editorial planning, copywriting, channel publishing and reporting.

At JSMM, our social media marketing experts develop and execute custom programs for large and small clients alike. These strategies are created to hit tangible revenue goals, increase new contacts and generate leads. And we are happy to discuss the social media impacts on mental health as it relates to your company. 

Our secret to success is combining the right tactics with the proper budget and growing the program over time. In most cases, clients see rapid results within 60 days, increasing website leads. Take a look at our portfolio to see how we have driven business growth and results through digital and social media marketing. Read more about our social strategy, view our package options or contact us directly to see how JSMM can take your business to the next level through digital and social media marketing!

If you follow us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, share this article and let us know your thoughts. Do you take public stands on controversial issues? What are your thoughts on the potential anxiety it could cause for your followers?

By posting this, others will likely join in the discussion, and you can learn what their perspectives are.

And perhaps this can give you some insight you never realized before.


Written by

Valerie Jennings, founder and CEO of Jennings Social Media & MarTech (JSMM), is a trailblazing entrepreneur who established her agency in 2003 at just 24 years old. A pioneer in leveraging social media for marketing since 2005, Valerie has transformed JSMM from a niche PR firm into a globally recognized digital marketing powerhouse. Her strategic foresight and commitment to innovation earned her accolades such as the Top Women in Media Honoree and Marketing Executive of the Year by the Stevie Awards. An advocate for AI in marketing, Valerie holds an AI Certification from Coursera, led by Andrew Ng of Stanford University.

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