Negative Effects of Social Media Hit GenX Harder, Says Study

Negative Effects of Social Media Hit GenX Harder, Says Study

As someone who was born in the DMZ between Millennials (1981-1996 birth dates) and Generation X (roughly early 1960s to late 1970s), I find myself not really belonging to either classification, but instead half-in/half-out with both groups.

As a really old millennial (kind of)/very young Gen Xer (sort of), I find the current lifestyle sea change in our society, i.e. the shift from IRL (in real life) to online, rather disturbing.

Actually, the fact that we even have an acronym IRL is alarming in itself.

tech addiction

As is the term “Facebook Depression,” and its mere existence makes you wonder why the hell we need Facebook in the first place. In all fairness, there is no consensus on the relationship between SNS (social networking sites) usage and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, but the fact that we even have to study this idea is a red flag.

Maybe Jimmy Buffett really nailed it, about 20 years ago, when he penned these lyrics: “you’re caught up in the internet, you think it’s such a great asset, but you’re wrong, wrong, wrong.”

For several years, I’ve been advocating for more actual genuine socializing, and way less social media. This stance has cost me plenty of friends, who just weren’t on the same page as me. If they were even friends to begin with, because if they actually were, I think debates over reliance on technology is something that could have been worked out.

Besides, my belief that we all need to put the phone down a helluva lot more remains a hill that I’m truly willing to die on.

I’ve noticed there’s some generational gaps at work here too. My younger acquaintances don’t seem to have as much of an issue with being inextricable from their phone and incessantly hyper-connected to communications technology.


My older chums are fine with not really being heavily involved in social media. For those stuck in the middle  like myself, it can be a real struggle, and a new study has data that backs these assertions up.

Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication performed research that led to some interesting conclusions. They found that while social media usage has a negative effect on emotional and mental well-being overall, the effects are dependent on the person’s age and the number of platforms they regularly utilize.

Adults younger than 29 reported higher well-being, the more social media sites they were on while adults older than 30 reported lower well-being the more social media sites they log onto. Additionally, more social media for 30+ increased anxiety, while more social media for those sub 29 decreased anxiety.

Even with the documentation and presentation of such adverse effects, don’t expect Americans to spend any less time online. According to Simmons Research, whose findings were presented on Meet the Press in their “Data Download” segment two weeks ago, 73% of Americans use social media, and 45% go online more than 25 times per week.

meet the press

Worries over privacy won’t hold people back either, so don’t expect the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal to change anything. The research showed that only 22% of respondents will use the internet less over privacy concerns.

The Temple study, conducted by Professors Bruce Hardy and Jessica Castonguay, used data from the 2016 General Social Survey.

“This topic will continue to be looked at,” Castonguay said, “but [this information] is kind of a promising. If you’re in a generation where social media use is the norm, you can use it to improve, rather than harm, mental health.”

The findings of professor Hardy seem to gel with my theories, or at least what I’ve assumed based on my own personal experiences, as he noted Millennials and younger grew up with more social media and thus may react more favorably to its influence than older people who were forced to adapt as they’ve aged.

mark zuckerberg

The study found that younger people who don’t take part in social media actually experience more stress than their older counterparts. Hardy attributes this to social media being much more integral to their daily lives. Those in older generations, he believes, are reconnecting with people from their past and seeing how much people have changed causes some of the stress.

“When you’re younger, you’re growing up with people on social media,” said Hardy.

“You, for instance, don’t notice the aging face of a spouse but when you look at people you haven’t seen in years, you have a different perspective.”

On paper that certainly seems like a rock solid theory-

older generations are more looking backward (playing catch-up) on social media, and thus have unfavorable experiences while younger people are more “with it” and thus using the social media platforms to look forward, and that elicits more favorable engagements.

abe simpson

Or as Grandpa Abe Simpson famously said:

“I used to be with it, but then they changed what it was, and now what I’m with isn’t it; and what’s it seems weird and scary to me. One day it’ll happen to you.”

Of course, it’s worth nothing the incredible hypocrisy here for any writer (including this “cynical member of Generation X”) who rips social media to the core, but still remains active on it. Note the signature at the end of this point, denoting the links to all my social media accounts.

The truth is, media members really use SNS for completely different reasons than most people in other professions; and that makes deleting our accounts kind of impossible.

generation x

“The moderating role of age in the relationship between social media use and mental well-being: An analysis of the 2016 General Social Survey” is also available online.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC and Chicago, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune corporation blogging community Chicago Now.

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Filed under: Current Events, Media

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