Sorry, journos: Heavy use of social media is not stressful, study says

The Pew Research Center's latest internet study, out this morning, uses some intricate survey methodology to come to a straightforward finding: heavy users of social media, Facebook particularly, are not stressed by the experience.

That's noteworthy in light of a spate of think pieces and entire books arguing that digital information overload is messing with our minds and lowering the quality of life for many.

But a survey of 1,800 people, using a established scale for measuring stress, found that internet/cell phone/ social media users are not finding "that their life is is overloaded, unpredictable and uncontrollable" as a result.

I asked whether the study tried to measure the impact of heavy news consumption via social media. Co-authors Lee Rainie of Pew Research and Keith Hampton of Rutgers University both said no -- but that might be a good question for another day.

The report noted one interesting exception to the overall finding: heavy Facebook users, especially women, said they are now more likely to learn of adverse events like illness, breakups and job loss among friends and family.  They find themselves saddened by some of that  -- a phenomenon the authors describe as "the cost of caring."

However, pressure to participate and "not miss out" via social media is not viewed as stressful by those who do it, nor does hearing about the successes of others via Facebook make them anxious about their own situation.

UPDATE, 11 a.m.:  Coincidentally Steve Rubel, chief content strategist for the Edelman public relations firm, has just posted a related story on journalists and social media, based on a survey of 250 journalists.  He finds that three-quarters of journalists now feel pressure to produce stories that will be shared on social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter.


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