Emily Baines
August 28, 2016 12:55 pm
FX

It’s no secret that social media has given birth to a rising number of mental issues such as FOMO, anxiety, and internet addiction. But now, thanks to a new study, we’re learning that spending too much time on social media not only affects our own feelings of self worth, it can seriously hurt our social interactions when we DO step out from behind the screen!

The researchers studied the links between our online and offline social networking skills and happiness. Apparently, while social media makes us happier when it encourages us to meet people face-to-face, it also can lower our “social trust,” which means lowering our chances of actually planning to see people in person. Yikes.

As the study explained:

“The overall effect of [online] networking on individual welfare is significantly negative.”

This explains why games such as Pokemon Go are so effective (not to mention, popular)—they get us out of the house and force us to interact IRL with people.

Want to beat those anxiety blues? The Guardian‘s Anna Petherick has a few suggestions for beefing up your bravery in terms of face-to-face social interactions. The first piece of advice is huge:

STOP WORRYING over the number of followers your have on Facebook or Instagram: they don’t actually make you happier.

Petherick writes, “Whatever your personality type, age or income, a study of 5,000 people (and their friends) in Canada reveals that doubling your number of real-world friends has a huge impact on your happiness. Doubling your friends on social media has almost none.”

That’s huge, guys.

She also advises we socialize with intention

“If you insist on scrolling through your Facebook feed, train yourself to pay selective attention to updates from friends with whom you are close in the offline world. Their posts are probably as biased as anyone else’s, but reading them fosters a good kind of envy of the positive, self-motivating variety. By comparison, ingesting a glut of effortless romance and exotic adventure sports from distant acquaintances is likely to conjure up a desire to pull others down,” she adds.

Comedy Central / giphy.com

Oh, and more cat gifs can make you happier.

We’re serious.

Petherick says, “Research out of Indiana University finds that the more people watch internet cats, the more they enjoy the experience. (And if you get really into it, you can always go to the internet cat film festival.)”

Now let’s put our computer to sleep and go outside and meet some friends! Or, you know, go watch some YouTube videos of cats. Whatever floats your boat.

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