A new study did not support the notion that people become stressed from keeping up with social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. Using digital technologies does not directly cause stress, but social media can increase awareness of problems facing friends and family, and this stress is contagious, according to the the Pew Research Center and Rutgers University researchers. Researchers concluded that the stress facing some users of social networks was related to the cost of caring.
During the study, 1,801 American adults were surveyed from August 7 to September 16. Researcher Keith Hampton said, "Learning about and being reminded of undesirable events in other people's lives makes people feel more stress themselves. This finding about the cost of caring adds to the evidence that stress can be contagious."
The researchers found that Facebook was the only technology that, for both men and women, provided higher levels of awareness of stressful events taking place in the lives of both close and more distant acquaintances, and this stress was contagious. The study found that a woman with an average size network of Facebook friends is aware of 13 percent more stressful events in the lives of her family and friends, and men are aware of eight percent more. Researchers said, "The cost of caring is particularly felt by women. This is a result of two facts about women and stress- first, women report higher levels of stress to begin with, and second, women are aware of more stressful events in the lives of their friends and family."
Overall, the researchers found that frequent Internet and social media users did not have higher levels of stress than the general population, and that many who use Twitter, email, and cell phone picture sharing reported lower levels of stress. However, there were some gender differences in how social media use affected stress.
The researchers wrote, "There was no statistical difference in stress levels between men who use social media, cell phones, or the Internet and men who do not use these technologies. But a women who uses Twitter several times per day, sends or receives 25 emails per day, and shares two digital pictures through her mobile phone per day, scores 21 percent lower on our stress measure than a woman who does not use these technologies at all."