The way you interact with social media can hurt your mental health in real life, says a new study.
Who hasn't found themselves scrolling mindlessly through Facebook or Instagram, lost in a sea of happy engagement photos, adorable puppies, and perfect Instagram abs? But if you're the type to just look and not 'like,' your mental health might be at risk. That's because observing without interacting on social media is more likely to lower your own self-esteem and life satisfaction, according to a new study published in Journal of Telematics and Informatics. (BRB while we like every photo in our feed.)
Let's be real, there are many reasons not to like, heart, or favorite a post on social media. Perhaps you don't want the other person to know you're interested in them. Maybe you're embarrassed you're still obsessed with their vacation pictures from two years ago. Perhaps you mostly follow celebs and don't want to be a 'groupie.' Or maybe you really just don't like what they're posting but enjoy hate-reading it. Whatever the reason, stop it, say the researchers. So-called 'lurking' on other people's social media profiles—especially if you're stuck on their selfies—kills your self-esteem, makes you feel unhappy with your own life, increases loneliness, and may even be making you depressed. (BTW, the filter you choose on Instagram can also signal depression.)
Although, it's not clear from the research which comes first: Are people not engaging with others on social media because they are lonely and depressed, or is the lurking causing the negative feelings? Most likely being a passive watcher leads to feeling like an outsider which leads to more lurking, creating a vicious cycle. But the reason for the negative feelings is pretty simple: "People usually post selfies when they're happy or having fun," said study author Ruoxu Wang in a press release. "This makes it easy for someone else to look at these pictures and think his or her life is not as great as theirs."
Thankfully the cure is just as simple: Hit the like button! It just takes a second and not only will it give the person who posted a little boost, but it will also make you feel more connected to and involved with your friends. And don't forget to take that positive energy offline as well—having a strong group of friends in real life is one of the best things you can do for your mental health!