Social Media hasn't recently been painted as something that is healthy for us, or beneficial for our physical and mental health. So many of us spend such a long time scanning Facebook, scrolling through Twitter, that often it can be seen as harmful and not as important as the so called ‘real world’. But social media IS a powerful tool, and it has been proven this week to help improve the mental health of women, especially in relation to discussing sexism.
Published in the British Journal of Social Psychology, a study looked at how women felt when they talked about current gender issues. Dr Mindi Foster of Wilfred Laurier University in Canada led the research, which looked at the ways female undergraduate students felt after tweeting about issues of sexism. Dr Foster split the 93 students into three groups, one that tweeted publicly for three days, one that tweeted privately, and one that did not tweet at all. All participants were given information each day about current sexism in politics and the media, and took surveys meant to assess their mood and overall well-being. The study’s results suggested that tweeting publicly about these issues could improve the way women feel, and make them see themselves as part of a collective action.
Although tweeting publicly about gender issues and sexism can be difficult to women, as more often than not, they are faced with a backlash from trolls or those who disagree with them. But this study showed that a collective action did go some way in improving a women’s well-being.
Using twitter to talk about; ‘sexism in politics, the media, and in universities’ (Foster) can be beneficial for women. The research showed that the women who tweeted publicly saw an improvement in their mental well-being by day three of the study. Whereas, the groups who tweeted privately, or not at all, didn't show any changes in their mental health. The study concluded that; ‘tweeting about sexism may serve as a collective action that can enhance women’s well-being’
This is great news for Twitter accounts such as ‘No More Page 3’ and ‘Everyday Sexism’, which have been tweeting and sharing updates on sexism around the world for a number of years. Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, wrote about this topic, and reiterated the power of social media in discussing the gender imbalance.
‘Writing a tweet isn't the same as going on a march, or writing to a member of parliament, but it is valuable in its own right. As we battle to shift deeply ingrained sexist norms, it matters that millions of people are able to stumble across the feminist message and see those norms challenged on social media. It is a new way to reach those who might not ever deliberately seek out the message elsewhere.’
The Women’s Organisation Team are utterly obsessed by Twitter, and believe it is a powerful tool in connecting women, men, people, around the globe. Discussing gender politics and sexism on twitter is something that can help many women understand the ingrained imbalance of society. And if science says it’s good for us – then who are we disagree!