Social media often gets a bad reputation for damaging the mental health of those who use it, however new research suggests it may not all be bad.
A study by Edge Hill University has claimed that interacting with family and friends on WhatsApp may actually be good for a person’s psychological wellbeing.
Research found that of the people asked, those who spent more time on the popular instant messaging service reported feeling a greater sense of self-esteem and less lonely, compared to those who did not use it often.
How does WhatsApp help?
"There's lots of debate about whether spending time on social media is bad for our well-being but we've found it might not be as bad as we think," Dr Linda Kaye, a senior lecturer in psychology at Edge Hill University, told the Independent.
"The more time people spent on WhatsApp, the more this related to them feeling close to their friends and family and they perceived these relationships to be good quality."
The results from this study contradict claims that social media can have a negative impact on a person’s wellbeing. Apps like Facebook and Instagram in particular have been criticised for this.
This is because the platforms present to users a filtered version of people’s lives, which others see and compare themselves to. This creates a phenomenon known as ‘Facebook envy’.
Impact of social media is debated
A study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, published in 2018, found a direct correlation between time spent on social media and increased levels of anxiety, depression and loneliness.
However, the research from Edge Hill suggests that the group and individual chats facilitated by WhatsApp could mean people feel more emotionally supported.
"Specifically, the findings show how including factors relating to social bonding capital is highly pertinent within this field as a way of understanding how technology usage relates to psychological wellbeing," said Dr Kaye.
"It gives rise to the notion that social technology such as WhatsApp may stimulate existing relationships and opportunities for communication, thereby enhancing aspects of the users' positive wellbeing."