Study confirms using X (formerly Twitter) harms well-being

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Researchers at the University of Toronto have shed light on the emotional toll of using X (formerly Twitter), highlighting the platform’s impact on users’ well-being.

The study, featured in Communications Psychology, offers insights into how engagement with X can lead to a mix of belonging and negative emotions, including outrage, political polarization, and boredom.

The findings underscore that the platform itself isn’t the root cause of these effects but rather how individuals use it and their initial reasons for logging on.

The research involved monitoring the emotional responses of 252 diverse U.S. users, focusing on the immediate emotional changes experienced during their time on X.

The study uncovered a consistent pattern: users often felt a sense of increased belonging but also encountered a significant drop in positive emotions and a rise in negative feelings.

Interestingly, the study found no direct positive impacts on well-being, regardless of the sense of community some users reported.

The emotional impact of using X varied significantly based on the users’ motivations. Those seeking an escape from real-world problems tended to report lower overall well-being and were more likely to experience anger and unhappiness.

Frequent users also reported higher levels of boredom. Notably, the act of scrolling through the feed, the most common activity on X, was closely associated with reduced well-being.

Political polarization was another aspect examined in the study, with politically polarized individuals tending to engage more in retweeting.

Surprisingly, using X for entertainment and information-seeking was linked to increased feelings of anger and polarization, challenging the notion that passive consumption is a neutral activity.

Conversely, users seeking social interaction through replying to tweets and exploring profiles noted a positive impact on their sense of belonging.

This suggests that active engagement in meaningful interactions could mitigate some of the platform’s negative effects.

The study’s findings highlight the complex relationship between social media use and emotional well-being, pointing to the importance of intentionality in online behavior.

As social media continues to evolve, understanding the nuanced ways it affects users becomes crucial for promoting healthier digital environments.

The research findings can be found in Communications Psychology.

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