A new study has found that spending time on social media apps like WhatsApp is good for a person’s well-being. The study titled ‘Psychosocial Outcomes Associated with Engagement with Online Chat Systems’ concluded that messaging apps with group chat function has a positive impact on psychological health. But nothing can be farther from the truth. We have known for long that our reliance on social media apps is damaging our mental health. Even the study talks about two main competing hypotheses — the displacement hypothesis and the stimulation hypothesis, with the former stating that internet takes our time away from more meaningful, quality “real-world” interaction to negative psychological outcomes such as depression and loneliness.
Several other studies have shown that regulating the time one spends on social media apps like WhatsApp actually has positive and measurable effects on mental health. The constant storm of messages and forwards that we see on WhatsApp daily does nothing positive to anybody’s health. On the contrary, WhatsApp’s features like Status — where people post photos as stories — does little to help with timidity and self-doubt. Comparing yourself with your ‘contacts’ on WhatsApp and looking at their aesthetically made photos and faultless profile pictures could do little to enhance your self-confidence.
People, especially in India, are glued to their phone screens and are more at ease with messaging their ‘contacts’ than talking to their real-life appearance. WhatsApp groups comprising your old friends are definitely a great way to reconnect and fondly remember old events but it can also affect and misrepresent the way you remember those events. Social technology may help in stimulating “existing relationships” but it is also a known fact that WhatsApp is also a major source of “fake news”. This misinformation is often hard to fight because it unknowingly comes from trusted friends or family members and can do more harm than good for the bond.
There is also a debate over how much time is too much time to spend messaging someone on WhatsApp. Chatting with friends and in groups keeps our brains on the ball, holding us back from falling asleep. In addition, the light from the mobile phone doesn’t help either.
Last but not least, deleting WhatsApp altogether from your device isn’t the answer because it has its share of benefits too. But start with limiting the usage. Know why you want to chat and the clearer your reason, the less you’ll be affected by it. Avoid opening your apps on impulse and stop responding to your phone’s notifications instantaneously. The point is to be aware. As long as you find the right place for these apps in your communication ladder, there is nothing wrong with sending jokes or weird selfies to a family group or to your friend.