Wednesday 24 August 2016

Is Blogging & Social Media Bad For Your Mental Health?

This post is a little bit different. I've been reluctant to write it as I'm planning to conduct research into this for my PhD when the time is right, but as that's happening no time soon and my post on the goods and the bads of social media is one of my most popular, I thought some of you might be interested in reading about some of the theory my idea.

I promise it's more exciting than that intro. Honestly. Stay with me.

instagram phone display social media

Research has suggested that writing about your emotions and experiences can make you feel better, improve your mental wellbeing and all that kind of stuff. It's kind of general knowledge now (one of the things I love about psychology - people don't realise how much psychology informs the general knowledge of everything!).

People keep diaries and writing about negative experiences/emotions as part of therapy or counselling is pretty commonplace. It turns experiences that may be hard to think about or talk about into more "organised" thoughts that might be easier to understand and deal with. There's pretty good evidence to support this, even though it's not clear why it works.

So, one study by Pennebaker, Colder and Sharp (1990), the one that has inspired this train of thought and to study it further, looked at undergraduate students in their first year of Uni. Half of the students (the control group) were asked to write about something mundane and non-emotional like describing their new room. The other half (the experimental group) were asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings about coming to uni. So pretty emotional and potentially traumatic!

To summarise what they found (hope you're still with me, guys!), the physical health of the experimental group who wrote the personal stuff was better than that of the control group. So it seems that writing about emotional stuff (like we do in our blogs) can make you healthier physically. Which is really cool, I think.

However the experimental group had worse psychological outcomes! I was so surprised at this, it goes against everything I thought about diary keeping and the therapy of writing. The experimental group during the first term of uni showed lower "adjustment", more homesickness and negative feelings than the students who didn't write about emotional stuff.

Although the changes were short term, and by the end of the second semester there was no difference between the two, these short term changes really really surprised and concerned me.

Now imagine you're a blogger (you probably are a blogger so well done, you), you are writing personal posts ALL THE TIME. And even if you're not a blogger, odds are you're partial to a moany/personal Facebook status or tweet now and again, or even daily. What is the effect this is having on your mental wellbeing? The two groups showed the same outcomes eventually, but the group that wrote the emotional/traumatic piece suffered in comparison. It may only be short term, but as a blogger or social media addict, it is more than likely that you are doing this sort of writing extremely regularly. Maybe even daily?

Potentially you're not giving yourself "recovery" time and you're going to be seeing the effects of the next personal post before recovering from the other. Does this mean you are in an prolonged state of negative psychological wellbeing? Who knows! (Hopefully I'll know when I get to studying this - check back in a couple of years...)

We are a generation addicted to social media and with a new blog appearing every half a second, more and more of us are sharing our personal lives online. In full. Completely exposed. What is this doing to us?

It's important to know that the differences were small (but statistically significant), so it's not as if these people become madly depressed. So don't fret. I think it raises interesting questions though and encourages a bit of thought.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this - it's such an interesting subject so please get involved and leave a comment on whether you think this is a load of crap or you actually see this being plausible?

Teri-May xx


If you're interested in reading more (you clever beans, you), this is the paper I talked about:
Pennebaker, J. W., Colder, M., & Sharp, L. K. (1990). Accelerating the coping process. Journal of personality and social psychology, 58(3), 528. 



  1. This is really interesting and quite unexpected. I am a terrible journal keeper, so when I go back and look at things I've written, usually the situation has changed quite a bit. I suppose if I was writing and adding t it every day, I'd keep dwelling on things and rethinking the day before.
    I think, like anything, it seems like blanace is key.

    It was nice to read something totally different.
    Tina x

    1. I think that might be a very valid explanation! It encourages rumination over thoughts which can't be very helpful?! I'm really glad you enjoyed, thank you :-)

  2. This is super interesting so thank you for writing it! I wonder whether, for those people who were asked to write about very emotional/personal stuff, it was almost forcing them to find things they were upset about/look deep down inside themselves and find an issue. I personally didn't have any trouble adjusting to uni and didn't even cry once about being homesick (despite moving from newcastle to brighton and not knowing anyone!). It's completely possible, though, that this was because I was too distracted by everything going on to even THINK about feeling homesick, and if I was asked specifically to think about home and how difficult moving away was, I may have struggled. I think there's a difference between general diary keeping/therapy writing and what this study did, because in this study they were asked to write about a specific subject (difficulties of moving away from home), which is arguably biased towards negative thoughts. However, keeping a general diary just allows you to expel your thoughts whether they're negative or positive, which I think is much more productive in terms of thought organisation. Sorry this is a bit of a ramble - hopefully some of it makes sense! xx

  3. This is such an interesting study - i think it's ALL about balance. I know that, for me, writing has been both a blessing and a curse. I think what is important is that you share your thoughts, but NOT just to yourself! I think talking to others is key. i know that, when i wrote it only in a diary, i was getting it all out but no one was helping me deal with it, so it consumed me. I think that's where blogging can really help, but it's balance - i think overexposure can be detrimental, so it's important to have relationships OFFLINE to support you xxxx


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