Completely agree "The point is not to judge the quality of content, currently. It's to realize that (1) our simple brains are defenceless against the unlimited power of algorithmic manipulations, future or even extant. Our dopamine, adrenaline, etc wiring cannot evolve, and certainly not as fast as software does. And, therefore, (2) if someone can profit by hijacking the attention (or beliefs or preferences or actions) of (young) people, we can expect that exploitation to arise. So where are the protections? Secondly, the incentives for communication in algorithmic environments can be pernicious. If the algorithms give you an audience based on the attention-getting power of your message, rather than on how good you feel hearing or processing it, then discourse can become radicalized if a larger audience is a reward or is rewarded. Together, these risks mean that it is possible/likely/inevitable for people's minds to be manipulated to ends that are entirely disconnected from their self-motivated wellbeing. It means we may be radicalized, frightened, desirous/invidious, or self-critical in unhealthy ways. I'm sure such systems can work, but without careful limits to how those algorithms work, there is 100% certainly risk to our ""mental health"". "
Professor Chris Barrington-Leigh
Assistant Professor, McGill University
Neither agree nor disagree There appears to be some preliminary evidence this may be the case. The American psychological association has identified gaming addiction as a potential malady. As to the extent of the problem, this is yet to be agreed upon; it is only just over a decade since social media access devices and smart-phones, that are often used to access social media, have become ubiquitous.
Doctor Tony Beatton
Visiting Fellow, Queensland University of Technology (QUT)
Neither agree nor disagree Social media has positive aspects (social relationships, entertainment, education) and negative aspects (addiction, misinformation, substituting for in-person interaction). The balance of these positive and negative aspects on well-being varies substantially across individuals.
Professor Daniel Benjamin
Associate Professor of Economics, University of Southern California
Completely agree We are starting to see evidence that social media has negative well-being consequences, partly through facilitating anonymous mobbing and a deterioration of how we interact with each other, but also through our inborn tendency to jump on positional treadmills and compare ourselves with others. Carefully curated profiles that omit the dreary boring reality of our lives then create opportunities for dissatisfaction when one mistakenly compares one's own mundane life with the glossy online version of friends and acquaintances. Carefully engineered websites that exploit our psychological quirks lure us into compulsively checking for news and updates, making us nervous and anxious of FOMO (fear of missing out). I am not a fan.
Professor Martin Binder
Professor of Socio-Economics at Bundeswehr University Munich
Neither agree nor disagree Social media is a broad concept and it is thus difficult to assess its impact. In addition, social media can be used in different forms. Evidence points towards a negative effect of social media on young people, probably due to issues such as social pressure, comparison (comparing to not real lives), and physical isolation. The long term effects on young people, however, are still to be seen. Young people that are now in their teens or early twenties might think that their life after studying will look similar to the ones portrayed in social media, which tends to over expose the hedonic happy moments. This makes younger people believe that hedonic happiness is possible and desirable. Nevertheless, social media has allowed us to have access to information that was difficult before (e.g., becuase it was controled by those with power), which should increase citizen empowerment. Of course, social media is also controlled by the most powerful, as usual.
Professor Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonnell
Professor of Economics, IAE-CSIC
Completely agree More difficult to get natural resources and food
Professor Bruno Frey
Visiting Professor of Economics and Wellbeing, University of Basel
Completely agree There are three separate mechanisms. One is that social media is fast-distraction-based, preventing children from learning deep focus. The second is that social media encourages quick social comparisons based on visuals and word-based value signalling, which is detrimental to poorly visible investments and skills important in life. The third is that social media is addictive and at the expense of in-person socialising, leading to a lack of deep social connections, physical needs, and less resilience to bullying.
Professor Paul Frijters
Professorial Research Fellow, CEP Wellbeing Programme, London School of Economics
Neither agree nor disagree Many people, including the young, successfully use social media to enhance their opportunities, connectedness and wellbeing. For instance, people release music via Youtube while people with anxiety may feel an ability to connect with people that they otherwise would be too anxious to socialise with. Others find the comparisons (and, sometimes, bullying) that social media engenders to be harmful. It is therefore hard to generalise about the effects of social media on mental health as mental health may improve for some and worsen for others.
Professor Arthur Grimes
Chair of Wellbeing and Public Policy, School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington
Agree "People (and even other primates) are exquisitely tuned to social comparisons. Prior to the social media era, social comparisons were based largely on direct observation of peers, limiting opportunities for distortion. The average person was, therefore, presented with a balanced set of comparisons. Social media changed this equilibrium by enabling people to present a distorted view of their life: accentuating the positives and hiding the negatives. Everybody knows this, but our emotional brain finds it difficult to correct for this distortion. As a result, the average person feels as if the large majority of their peers are better looking, happier, and more socially successful than they are. This is a problem, because unfavourable comparisons reduce subjective well-being and can cause mental health problems. Growing research shows that this is exactly what is happening now, particularly among teenagers. While the main problem is the distortion in peer comparisons, social media also creates unrealistic expectations as for the quality of life more broadly: how vacations look like, what love life is like, and even how home cooked dishes should look like. Since expectations play a key rule in how people evaluate their own experiences, unrealistic expectations lead to disappointment and increase the risk of mental health problems. "
Professor Guy Mayraz
Lecturer, University of Sydney
Completely agree The effect of the use of social media on people's well-being is difficult to ascertain because both of them are affected by individual's skills and traits, and causality can go both ways. Indeed, studies based on correlations find ambiguous results (see the survey of surveys Valkenburg 2020). However, if the use of social media is properly instrumented, the negative effect emerges quite clearly. E.g., Braghieri et al. (2022) leverage the natural experiment of the introduction of Facebook across US colleges staggered over time, and find that, after several semesters, students have increased symptoms of mental health problems, especially depression. By using a randomized experiment in which the use of Facebook is restricted, Allcott et al. (2020) find consistents result valid for the general population. Other consistent evidence emerges for the case of the use of Internet, which has greatly facilitated the social media use (Golin 2022 for Germany; Donati et al. 2022 for Italy). The main reason that explain the negative effects seem to be the enhanced social comparison (Braghieri et al. 2022), which deflates well-being, and a worsening of socialization (Allcott et al. 2020; Golin 2022).
Professor Maurizio Pugno
Full Professor of Economics, University of Cassino
Agree There does seem to be mounting evidence that greater exposure to social media is linked to a decline in mental health, especially among young people. I point in particular to the experimental evidence reported in a series of papers published in the American Economic Review (Alcott 2020, 2022; Braghieri et al. 2022), but there are others (eg Mosquera et al. Experimental Economics 2020).
Professor Mark Wooden
Professorial Research Fellow and Director of the HILDA Survey Project, Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic and Social Research, Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Melbourne
Completely agree Recent evidence by Braghieri et al. (2022) shows convincing evidence that there are negative impacts of social media on the mental health of college students, largely due to the effects of comparing ourselves with others.
Professor Stephen Wu
Professor of Economics, Hamilton College
Neither agree nor disagree Not yet, but possibly in the longer term as a result of stagnating globalization
Professor Ruut Veenhoven
Professor of Sociology, Erasmus University Rotterdam