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Why Social Media Actually Lowers Stress for Women

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If one of your resolutions for 2015 is a social media or iPhone detox, you may want to reconsider before going to any extremes.

Yes, there has recently been a flood of studies suggesting we need to back off our smartphones. There’s the fact that, reportedly, those of us who spend the most time on our phones feel more anxious than others during downtime, and the fact that iPhone “addiction” really can cause serious negative psychological and physiological effects. But a new report reminds us it isn’t all bad.

Overall, frequent Internet and social media users do not have higher levels of stress than those who are less plugged in, and for women, social media may actually help lower stress levels, says a new Pew Research Center survey. Specifically, “a woman who uses Twitter several times per day, sends or receives 25 emails per day, and shares two digital pictures through her mobile phone per day, scores 21 percent lower on our stress measure than a woman who does not use these technologies at all,” the report states. (Find out How Typing On Your Smartphone Affects Your Brain.)

While the researchers can't point to an exact reason why these specific technologies are associated with lower stress, they do offer up this possible explanation: “Sharing through email, sending text messages of pictures of events shortly after they happen and expressing oneself through the small snippets of activity allowed by Twitter may provide women with a low-demand and easily accessible coping mechanism that is not experienced or taken advantage of by men.”

However, the study did find that a greater awareness of stressful events in the lives of others is tied to higher levels of stress (a phenomenon coined ‘the cost of caring'), especially for women. Basically, the survey confirms what we've known all along: "stress is contagious." (Here, how bad news in the media impacts your health.)

So—until another piece of conflicting research comes out, that is—don't be afraid to use Twitter "several" times a day, or to exchange a modest 25 emails, and to send those two pictures. (Unfortunately, there's no word yet on how Snapchatting every person you know or Instagramming everything you eat factors in to your stress levels). 

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