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Why Social Media Makes People Unhappy—And Simple Ways to Fix It

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Disrupted sleep, lower life satisfaction and poor self-esteem are just a few of the negative mental health consequences that researchers have linked to social media. Somehow the same platforms that can help people feel more connected and knowledgeable also contribute to loneliness and disinformation. What succeeds and fails, scientists say, is a function of how these platforms are designed. Amanda Baughan, a graduate student specializing in human-computer interaction at the University of Washington, studies how social media triggers what psychologists call dissociation, or a state of reduced self-reflection and narrowed attention. She presented results at the 2022 Association for Computing Machinery Computer-Human Interaction Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Baughan spoke with Mind Matters editor Daisy Yuhas to explain how and why apps need to change to give the people who use them greater power.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]

You’ve shown how changing social media cues and presentations could improve well-being, even when people strongly…



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