Editor's note

It wasn’t until I stopped using Facebook that I realised how much of my time it was taking up. Despite the fact I often came across posts that bored or annoyed me, I would just keep scrolling until I finally found something that looked interesting. And then, if it proved to be clickbait or followed by mindless or outrageous comments, I’d just go back to scrolling for something else. Or check my messages. Or look at that photo album I’d been tagged in.

New research from Monideepa Tarafdar and her colleagues suggests I’m not alone. After surveying hundreds of Facebook users, they found that the most common response to feeling stressed by social media was not to stop using it but to simply look for something else within the app to relieve this “technostress”. This risks creating a loop of ever-increasing stress and can even form a symptom of addiction.

Of course, these kind of apps are designed to keep you coming back for more. But simply blaming Silicon Valley won’t fix the problem. We also have to be aware of how our own behaviour in response to problems plays a role in our mental health, and how best to deal with difficult situations. Learning this could help us all live happier lives.

Elsewhere, we look at how human language is shaped by the way our brains are set up to look for certain patterns. And, after his seven year stint as chief scientific adviser to the UK government’s environment department recently came to an end, Ian Boyd gives his view that simply cutting emissions isn’t enough to prevent climate breakdown – we all need to consume less.

Stephen Harris

Commissioning + Science Editor

Top story

Drazen Zigic/Shutterstock

Technostress: how social media keeps us coming back for more even when it makes us unhappy

Monideepa Tarafdar, Lancaster University; Christian Maier, University of Bamberg; Sven Laumer, Friedrich–Alexander University Erlangen–Nürnberg (FAU)

Looking for a short-term fix from the very thing that is causing you long-term problems is a symptom of addiction.

Science + Technology


Barn owls reflect moonlight in order to stun their prey

Almut Kelber, Lund University; Alexandre Roulin, Université de Lausanne; Luis Martín San José García, Université de Lausanne

Scientists have discovered how the wise old barn owl is so good at catching rodents.

Environment + Energy

Business + Economy

MikeDotta / Shutterstock.com

Why Syrian refugees have no negative effects on Jordan’s labour market

Jackline Wahba, University of Southampton

Jordan has a huge number of Syrian refugees and since 2016 it has let them legally enter the workforce.

Politics + Society

Health + Medicine

Gardening gives people the chance to reconnect and relax. Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

Anxiety and depression: why doctors are prescribing gardening rather than drugs

Yvonne Black, University of Hull

How gardening can make you happier and healthier.

Arts + Culture

Lucasfilms/Twentieth Century Fox

Star Wars: the evolution of the Death Star reflects Hollywood’s growing fears of a climate apocalypse

Toby Neilson, University of Glasgow

If sci-fi films mirror the world's contemporary dystopian anxieties, then over the years Star Wars has gone from nuclear war to environmental collapse.



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