Happier youth 'spend less time online'

YOUNG people who rate themselves as happier also spend less time on social media, according to a survey by Singapore Polytechnic students.

The survey was conducted in June last year by the 98 students in the second-year cohort of the polytechnic's diploma in media and communications course. The results of the survey were presented to the media yesterday.

About 820 people between the ages of 15 and 35 were asked various questions about their levels of well-being, happiness and use of social media.

The students each polled eight to 10 people on the street, making sure to get a representative sample of ages from the target age range.

Respondents' level of well-being was defined to mean how satisfied they were with seven aspects of their lives - health, social life, education and job opportunities, freedom of expression, level of human rights, personal safety and sense of belonging. They were also asked to rate how happy they were on a seven-point scale.

Those who rated themselves happy spent an average of 5.4 hours online daily, while those who rated themselves as unhappy spent an average of 5.8 hours online daily, the survey found.

The results were consistent for respondents' level of well-being - those who rated themselves as having a high level of well-being spent an average of 5.4 hours online a day, while those who said their well-being was low spent an average of six hours online a day.

The results may suggest that young people use social media to voice their unhappiness to friends and on forums, said student Nerissa Tiong, 18, one of the researchers. "It may mean that the increased time spent online is because they are using the Internet as venting space for their dissatisfaction."

Fellow researcher Shazunah Aman, 20, said her own experience bore out the results. "I use Twitter to express myself a lot, especially when I am upset, because I feel connected to other people and they reply to me. That makes me feel better," she said.

Their lecturer, Ms Pam Fang, said the second-year students in the course do a quantitative survey every year that usually deals with youth and new media, as part of their mass media research module. "We want to give our students an understanding of the latest trends in the new media landscape, so we focus on social and new media," she said.

She said the idea for the survey came about from the students' own questions. "Their lives are so fast-paced right now with social media, and they started wondering if well-being and happiness have taken a back seat."

Miss Tiong added that even though the differences may seem slight, the implications still held.

"Since people who spend more time online are less happy and have a lower sense of well-being, we should take a step back and not spend so much time on the Internet," she said. "Our computers are turned on almost all day. We should go out and find meaningful things to do and have face-to-face communication with people around us."

jennanid@sph.com.sg


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