New UK research has found that despite concerns about spending time on social media, using the text-based messaging app WhatsApp could actually be good for our well-being.

A study conducted at the Edge Hill University looked at 200 male and female WhatsApp users with an average age of 24 and asked them to complete an online questionnaire measuring their responses on the use of the messaging app, reasons for using the app, online bonding, quality of relationships, and group identity. The findings, published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, showed that on average, participants reported using the app for around 55 minutes each day, with participants reporting that they largely use it because of its popularity and group chat function.

Many of us are perhaps woefully familiar with how important or joyous social occasions can often devolve into conversation-less mires the minute the phones come out. Despite the promise of increased connectivity, it seems that instant messaging apps eschew real-world relations for digital ones. A common caution is that such a practice could lead to digital addiction, but it appears that the trade-off might be worthwhile.

 

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The researchers found that the number of minutes per day spent using WhatsApp was positively related to the quality of relationships and that the more time people spent on WhatsApp each day, the less lonely they felt and the higher their self-esteem as a result of online bonding with friends and family.

“There’s lots of debate about whether spending time on social media is bad for our well-being but we’ve found it might not be as bad as we think”
Dr. Linda Kaye, co-author of the reserach at Edge Hill University

“The more time people spent on WhatsApp, the more this related to them feeling close to their friends and family and they perceived these relationships to be good quality.”

“As well as this, the more closely bonded these friendships were and the more people felt affiliated with their WhatsApp groups, the more this was related positively to their self-esteem and social competence.”

“Group affiliation also meant that WhatsApp users were less lonely. It seems that using WhatsApp to connect with our close friends is favorable for aspects of our well-being.” Dr. Kaye added, “This research contributes to the ongoing debates in this area and provides specific evidence of the role of social factors, along with social support motivations for using communication technology.”

“It gives rise to the notion that social technology such as WhatsApp may stimulate existing relationships and opportunities for communication, thereby enhancing aspects of the users’ positive well-being.”

One could argue that this only works because WhatsApp has basically become a proxy for human interaction; there’s no real merit to the app itself. Research notwithstanding, there will always be people who advocate the analogue approach to making conversation. Likewise, there will also be those that refuse to be swayed from their online ways. If no man truly is an island, then the value of a bridge should be indisputable, regardless of whatever form it may take.

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