International Day of Happines | The Digital Marketers’ Responsibility
As it’s International Day of Happiness today (20th March 2019), we thought we’d comment on a big trend that came out of the World Happiness Report suggesting that the iGeneration (also known as Generation Z) adolescents who regularly use the internet (at least 2 hours a day) are twice as likely to be unhappy as those who spend more time on other activities.
The BBC also published an article last year about how social media contributes to stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues, particularly in young people. The article does also suggest however that there isn’t actually enough evidence to make big claims about the impact of social media yet. The BBC claim that in fact, social media affects people differently depending on pre-existing conditions and their mental health history.
Furthermore, the Pharmacy Times published at article back in 2016 to say that social media can really help ones mental well-being because the social connections made online can drastically help people feel better about themselves. And as we know, the internet is not all negative and has done so many good things for people, creating a creative and empowering space for many people.
Despite this, the World Happiness Report and many others are reporting a negative correlation between happiness and internet use and ‘less screen time’ is a big wellness trend nowadays with people trying to spend less and less time online. The Happiness Report, which has been completed 7 times now, states a really strong correlation between happiness and social media on this year’s International Day of Happiness. Chapter 5 is titled The Sad State of Happiness in the United States and the Role of Digital Media. The main findings detailed in this chapter are:
- In the US, those who are heavy users of the internet, are more likely to be unhappy
- This is based only on a correlation (be it a strong one) but digital use is the only thing that increased significantly and therefore indicates that it could be a cause of the unhappiness (all other elements usually an predicator of happiness have improved, too such as lower crime rates)
- The ‘perfect life’ portrayed on social media could be a huge factor in this, this is largely due to the curated lives of social media influencers and social media celebrities
- There has been a huge increase in teenage depression since smartphones were created in 2011 (again only based upon a correlation but there is no other explanation)
Whilst the International Day of Happiness report is about the US and all results are based on correlations rather than exact causes, there is a distinct pattern emerging, and not just in this one report. Nowadays, more and more concerns are being raised about the implications of social media and the digital space on the well-being of consumers and curators in this space. This comes at a time where there has been a huge rise in concern of the mental wellbeing of social media influencers, and social media celebrities who post their curated lives online, which in turn puts pressure on the consumers and the curators to maintain this unrealistic lifestyle. It poses a question of the moral implications of working and participating in the digital space. What can digital marketers do in order to ensure that are not contributing to the negative elements of the digital space?
A few weeks ago we wrote an important blog about ethical marketing and how more and more brands are owning their social and ecological responsibility in the marketing space and we think this links perfectly with this topic and International Day of Happiness. We decided to reflect on this and write about what we think digital marketers can do to ensure that aren’t contributing to the negative implications social media and the digital world can have on people.
First of all, as we keep saying time and time again, content is king, so make sure you are always focusing on the quality of your content. Don’t populate the space with content that isn’t going to do anything for anybody – the digital space is noisy enough as it is!
Think about how your content might make your consumers feel. Obviously, your role as a digital marketer is to showcase what your business sells/offers and that is your main goal. However, if you think about how you can make your content resonate with your consumers in a positive way, not only will this help sell your product, but you are also contributing to the positive side of the internet and not the negative.
We would also recommend focusing on how your product might be helping social or ecological causes. What is your business doing to make sure they take responsibility for their actions? This helps people feel empowered on social media and highlights the positive impact that it can have on people.
Don’t forget that the internet can be a safe space for people, connecting like-minded people in ways that was never possible before. It is also the perfect place for people to express themselves and relish in their creativity, in fact, Clark et. al (2018) state that “social network sites benefit their users when they are used to make meaningful social connections and harm their users through pitfalls such as isolation and social comparison when they are not” and it is important to distinguish how you can contribute to the positive aspects realms of the internet on International Day of Happiness.
So what should you take from this on International Day of Happiness? Well, social media is arguably quite bad for our mental health and particularly the mental health of generation Z. But, this is not always the case and we can all do our part to make sure that social media is a more positive space. Earlier we tweeted about The Happy Newspaper and the work they are doing to spread Happy News to everybody, and it is the perfect example of how we can make the digital space a happier and more positive one.
- Brown, J. (2018). Is social media bad for you? The evidence and the unknowns. BBC Future.
- Clark, J., Algoe, S., & Green, M. (2018). Social Network Sites and Well-Being: The Role of Social Connection. Current directions in psychological science. 27:1.
- Helliwell, J., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. (2019). World Happiness Report 2019. New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
- Marotta, R. (2016). Social Media Use Can Improve Well-Being. The Pharmacy Times.