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Making Sense of Digital Stress

Jan 25, 2015

Credit npr.org

Cell phone calls, texting, Facebook, Twitter and email are really adding to our daily stress, right?

Not necessarily.

There's a new study that says we aren't as stressed out by our digital lives as we think we are.

"It goes against the narrative that we keep repeating all the time which is technology is adding to our stress levels," said Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's Sense-Making Project. "This study came out of the Pew Research Center and was just released and it's called Social Media and the Cost of Caring.  Its main finding is that, overall, there is no evidence that social media leads to a high stress level."

But, that doesn't apply to everyone in every circumstance.

"There were a couple of caveats," McBride explained. "It turns our that women are more complicated than men when it comes to social media. In some of their social media use, their stress levels are increased. And that's mainly when they use Facebook and they find out about close acquaintances having stressful things happening in their lives. Hence, the cost of caring. But it turns out women have decreased levels in stress when they use Twitter, email or picture sharing. That's because Twitter, email, sharing pictures on line  -- that all adds to your sense of control over your life. None of these nuances showed up on the male side of the survey."

And there were significant groups who live digital lives left out of the stress survey altogether.

"I personally hear from a lot of teens who say that they get stressed out with some of the chat apps like Snapchat because those tend to be group conversations where a lot of drama takes place," said McBride. "I also think that people whose work lives are closely tied to email get stressed out over email in ways that other people don't."