Technology doesn’t always make you more stressed out

Here is a very interesting piece by Claire Cain Miller, here is one excerpt:

The Pew and Rutgers researchers measured stress levels in a representative group of people by using a standard stress scale that ranks people’s responses to questions about their lives. Then they measured their frequency of digital technology use. They controlled for demographic factors like marital and education status.

They found no effect on stress levels among technology users over all. And women who frequently use Twitter, email and photo-sharing apps scored 21 percent lower on the stress scale than those who did not.

That could be because sharing life events enhances well-being, social scientists say, and women tend to do it more than men both online and off. Technology seems to provide “a low-demand and easily accessible coping mechanism that is not experienced or taken advantage of by men,” the report said.

Social media, particularly Facebook, increased stress in one way: by making people more aware of trauma in the lives of close friends. This effect was strongest for women. The finding bolsters the notion that stress can be contagious, the Pew and Rutgers researchers said.

But when such users of social media were exposed to stressful events in the lives of people who were not close friends, the users reported lower stress levels. Researchers said that was perhaps attributable to gratitude for their own lives being free of these stressors (the joy of missing out, offsetting the fear of missing out.)

Do read the whole thing.


The absence of technology can be stressful too.

I stress out

When I don't see

A post every three hours.

I think you jest here, but the lack of connectivity to office email can be very stressful. When I am out of the office, knowing that things in the office are under control is stress reducing. Not being abel to confirm that things are under control is stress increasing.

Of course, this may be a function of modern professional expectations of 24/7 availability, which might themselves be the result of technology.

"making people more aware of trauma in the lives of close friends. This effect was strongest for women. The finding bolsters the notion that stress can be contagious": I'll swear the Greeks had a word for that. Do psychologists ever discover anything new?

Do they perhaps disprove various things old? Still, it must be hard to practise your profession while all the while looking over your shoulder for the Thought Police.

Correlation doesn't imply causation... endogeneity... no identification... etc etc.

Why not "File under speculative"?

In the 1950s technology must have really stressed people out.

My wife was about to throw out a 1957 Civil Defense Escape Route 1 pamphlet given to her in Grade School.

After listing and mapping the one way escape routes, the pamphlet closes with

"Evacuation by Railroads

Railroad freight cars will be used to evacuate people without means of transportation. There will be a minimum of five 50-car freight trains to supplement other types of transportation. With each freight car carrying 75 people, each train will be able to move 3,750 people. The trains will be placed as follows....

If additional trains are available, you will be informed by Conelrad xxxx on your radio dial, and by civil defense authorities.

Adopt a Family Plan!
Know What to Do When the Siren Sounds!"

Have a Nice Day

It seems to me that the much more likely relationship is that those people who have time to use twitter, email, and photo sharing apps are those that have a larger amount of free time, and therefore are less stressed. Free time, or leisure time, is the confounding variable here.

They may have somehow controlled for all this, but I haven't had time to read the full study...

"when such users of social media were exposed to stressful events…"

There's a bias in favor of letting everyone know about good things that have happened to you, not bad. I left Facebook because I was sick of seeing everyone's "I got promoted!" or "I got engaged!" posts. Call me a hater, but relative status matters.

"Got a divorce" or "Got downsized" are not Facebook life event categories.

In the 19th century, a number of psychiatric conditions were diagnosed as "hysteria", which was widely blamed on the telephone -- this device which could suddenly ring at any minute, any second, and demand an immediate response. It was thought the stress of this device was causing these problems.

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