BOCHUM, Germany — In the digital world of endless comparisons, a thought-provoking study by a team at Ruhr University Bochum reveals a startling truth: materialism on social media fuels stress and diminishes happiness. This research, conducted through an online survey of over 1,200 participants, highlights the unique way social media perpetuates materialistic attitudes and the subsequent impact on mental health.
Led by Dr. Phillip Ozimek, the study defines materialism as the importance people attach to worldly possessions. On social media, this is often manifested through posts showcasing expensive items, luxurious vacations, or a seemingly perfect lifestyle. Facebook and Instagram have become breeding grounds for showing off. As users incessantly compare their lives with others, showcasing clothes, cars, and luxurious lifestyles, they fall into a trap of materialistic desire. This constant comparison, especially through passive use, spirals into a relentless pursuit for more, igniting a cycle of dissatisfaction.
Conducted with a diverse group of participants, the survey analyzed the social media behaviors and psychological states of individuals, focusing on their materialistic posts. The study employed six questionnaires to understand the participants’ materialistic attitudes, social media habits, stress levels, and life satisfaction. The participants, averaging over two hours a day on social media, revealed a clear pattern: higher levels of materialism on social media are associated with lower life satisfaction, increased stress symptoms, and a higher risk of social media addiction. This suggests that the pursuit of material wealth, when displayed on social media, can have detrimental effects on mental health.
“The data showed that a stronger materialistic approach goes hand in hand with a tendency to compare oneself with others,” Ozimek explains in a media release. “By this we mean, for example, that users are constantly thinking about the respective channels and fear that they are missing out on something if they are not online.”
The study’s implications extend beyond numbers and charts. It suggests a worrying trend where individuals seeking validation through materialistic displays on social media might be sacrificing their mental peace and happiness.
Social media addiction is characterized by compulsive use of social media platforms, often at the expense of other activities. Stress symptoms can range from anxiety to physical manifestations like headaches or fatigue. What’s clear is that social media may cause far more harm to users than good.
“Social media is one of six stepping stones to unhappiness,” says Ozimek.
While the study acknowledges the risks associated with social media, especially for materialistic individuals, Dr. Ozimek advises against completely abandoning these platforms. Instead, he suggests mindfulness in usage and a balanced approach to prevent overcompensation. Researchers also propose incorporating materialism and social media usage assessments in mental health treatment. Recognizing these factors as potential starting points for interventions offers new avenues for addressing modern-day mental health challenges.
The study by Dr. Ozimek and his team is a clarion call to recognize the hidden impacts of social media materialism. It highlights the need for self-awareness in our digital consumption and a balanced approach to social media use, reminding us that the pursuit of material possessions in the digital realm can have significant consequences on our mental well-being.
“It’s definitely a good idea to be aware of the amount of time you spend on social media and to reduce it,” recommends Ozimek, who advises against giving up social media completely. “If you did, you’re likely to overcompensate.”
The findings are published in the journal Telematics and Informatics Reports.
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