Survey: The Internet may be stressing you out

Some people’s interactions on the Internet might be leading to new stress, according to new analysis from the Pew Research Center.

While frequent users of the Internet do not report higher levels of stress than others, that changes if their use of Facebook, Twitter and other outlets makes them more aware of stressful events in other people’s lives.

ADVERTISEMENT

Awareness of other people’s troubles increases their own stress, in a psychological phenomenon called the ”the cost of caring," according to the new study.

“The relationship between stress and social media use is indirect,” researchers said in their new report. “It is the social uses of digital technologies, and the way they increase awareness of distressing events in others’ lives, that explains how the use of social media can result in users feeling more stress.”

For instance, women who were aware that someone close to them had a child or loved one die measured a 14 percent increase on the Pew survey’s measure of stress. Learning that someone has been arrested or accused of a crime increased women’s stress by 11 percent.

While people can grow aware of others’ stress through all sorts of means, the survey specifically noted that Facebook allowed men and women both to learn about the stressful events happening in the lives of their friends and family.

In other situations, however, the analysis found that the Internet is not stressing people out, contrary to many concerns that the “fear of missing out” might unsettle people browsing social media websites.

In fact, women who reported using Twitter and email and had the ability to share cellphone pictures actually had lower stress than other women who took part in the survey.

At the same time, women are often more aware of unsettling events in others’ lives, which can end up stressing them out.