Edinburgh researchers say ‘perfect’ Christmases on social media lowers mood

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PHOTOS of perfectly wrapped presents, smiling families gathered around towering tinselled trees and groups of friends taking selfies to celebrate their Christmas nights out.

The festive period is full of parties, present giving and Christmas cheer but it can also be a time of intense pressure which can be amplified by what people see when scrolling down their social media timelines.

Sue Johnston and Liz Smith in 'The Royle Family' Christmas. Picture: 'ITV ARCHIVE

Sue Johnston and Liz Smith in 'The Royle Family' Christmas. Picture: 'ITV ARCHIVE

Research from boffins at the University of Edinburgh Business School shows that when people are being fed a stream of perfect social media posts, 90 per cent experience a lowering of their mood.

Dr Ben Marder, senior lecturer in Marketing at Edinburgh University, said: “As Christmas draws closer, social media users are bracing themselves for the barrage of posts that will infiltrate their feeds showing online “friends” having a wonderfully jolly time.

“Filtered images will 
overload Instagram for days on end. For some it’s all part of sharing joy at this time of year but for others, consuming such content can have very negative consequences.

“As research conducted by myself and colleagues found, viewing idealised social media posts makes 90 per cent of people feel to some extent depressed.

“Seeing these fantasised depictions of the lives of their peers may merely compound their less than perfect Christmas, or the loneliness of those who don’t have special people in their lives to celebrate with.”

But all is not lost as Dr Marder calls for a curation of Christmas posts, by dialling down the airbrushed Instaworthy snaps but showing the nitty gritty of the festivities too.

He said: “Maybe we should rethink our social media output by showcasing the real, sometimes grim reality of our Christmas experience.”

Steven McCluskey, development manager at mental health charity, Health in Mind said: “Social media can help us to keep connected but the negative effects are also well documented and can sometimes be a drain on our emotional wellbeing. It can seem that everyone around us is having a great time at Christmas and New Year.

“It’s healthy to take a break from social media – it allows you to take time out to enjoy your surroundings and is an opportunity to reduce stress.”

Edinburgh-based Health in Mind offers digital detox boxes where people can take a break from devices and connect with others face-to-face or read a book.

Steven added: “Why not give yourself a break from social media this Christmas and read up on the services and supports on offer in Edinburgh during the festive period by getting a hold of Health in Mind’s Surviving the Holidays guide or if you’re not ready to give up social media just yet why not put it to good use and check out Edspace (www.edspace.org.uk) for information about other events and support taking place over the festive period.”

For anyone struggling with low mood or isolation or just in need of a confidential ear over Christmas and New Year, try helplines such as the Samaritans on 0131 221 999 and Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87.

To receive a copy of Surviving the Holidays, produced as part of the Edinburgh Cheer campaign, e-mail www.contactus@health-in-mind.org.uk.