Social media use following exposure to an acute stressor facilitates recovery from the stress response

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Recent evidence indicates that social network use (e.g., Facebook) prior to exposure to an acute stressor can buffer the physiological response to that stressor. However, it is unclear if using social media after exposure to an acute stressor can modulate recovery following the stressor. In the current study, therefore, we examined if social media use might serve as an effective coping mechanism to help deal with exposure to a stressor. Heart rate, blood pressure, and salivary cortisol were compared in healthy college undergraduates (n = 23) before and after completion of the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST). Following exposure to the TSST, subjects were selected to use social media, read quietly or given the choice to use social media or read quietly during a 15- minute recovery period. The TSST induced significant increases in heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and salivary cortisol. Additional analyses revealed that subjects that used social media after termination of the acute stressor demonstrated a significantly facilitated hemodynamic and a trend for a more rapid endocrine recovery compared with subjects that read quietly during the recovery period. Although the majority (71%) of subjects given the choice of recovery modality chose to use social media, differences were not observed between groups selected to use social media and those given the choice to do so during the recovery period. These results suggest that sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis recovery following stimulation by an acute stressor might be modulated by social media use in undergraduates. Collectively, these data provide further insight into the interaction between psychosocial stress, social media use and health.

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