While the (re)count every vote election 2020 sarcastic shirt Apart from…,I will love this documentary’s hyperbolic framing is compelling, the fear of new technologies is nothing unusual. “It is natural to be concerned about any new technology that reaches a certain level of popularity in society and so also to be concerned about social media,” Amy Orben, a research fellow at the University of Cambridge’s Emmanuel College, tells Vogue. But are our concerns misplaced?Mental illness rates in high-income countries are on the rise, and this is correlative with increased social-media use—but correlation does not necessarily equal causation. “The correlation between social media and mental health seems to be about the same as the correlation between eating potatoes and mental health: small and weak,” says Paul Marsden, a chartered psychologist in the cyberpsychology section of the British Psychological Society.Orben offers a more nuanced interpretation, arguing that the relationship between mental health and social media is “complex, bidirectional, and individual. It is highly influenced by what we do on it and why we do it, not just the time we spend.” This latter interpretation explains why research on the subject is so mixed. Where some studies have found occasions when social-media use can contribute to poor mental health, others have found there to be no effect, while some have even found evidence to support the idea that it can improve mental health, possibly by reducing loneliness and improving self-esteem.
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The Social Dilemma’s critique comes at an interesting time when more of us than ever are dependent on digital modes of connection. “Social media can wreak havoc with our confidence but can also keep us feeling less lonely and more connected,” explains Tabitha Goldstaub, chair of the (re)count every vote election 2020 sarcastic shirt Apart from…,I will love this U.K. government’s A.I. council and author of How to Talk to Robots: A Girls’ Guide to a Future Dominated by A.I. As many of us are forced to socially distance, we have found a lifeline in social media’s ability to keep us connected to our loved ones. In the absence of physical interaction, we have learned new virtual languages—sharing texts, memes, and emojis—with friends, family, and colleagues that can only serve to better our collective mental health.COVID-19 aside, social media has been pivotal in connecting like-minded people. It has played a fundamental part in various forms of grassroots activism—Black Lives Matter or the #MeToo movement—that have caused some of the most substantial social changes we’ve seen in years.In the same way, the growth of specific-interest online communities has had a positive impact on some people’s mental well-being. For example, research shows that social media can help marginalized teens—such as those who are neurodiverse or identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community—forge new social connections. “It can make us feel part of a global niche community that you’d never have been able to bond with in the same way pre–social media,” says Goldstaub. “The fact that people anywhere in the world can find someone to connect with is pretty magic.”