What is it about?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is considered by some researchers to be part of our personality (and characterises how we typically respond in emotional and social situations). Others consider EI to be a set of skills for emotion processing, nd can be measured in a similar way to IQ tests. We examine whether EI - in both forms - is useful for young adults experiencing social media stress, in terms of helping to maintain good mental health. 201 respondents (mean age 26.12; 83.6% female) completed measures of EI (measured as personality trait, and also as emotional skills in managing and understanding emotion), social media stress, anxiety, depression and wellbeing. We found that social media stress related to poorer mental health (symptoms and wellbeing) in our sample. Higher EI (personality/trait and ability) was linked to reduced levels of social media stress and better mental health. However, only we only found an interactive effect for EI measured as a peronality trait, not as emotion skills - those with lower levels of trait EI, who experience high levels of social media stress, report higher levels of depression symptoms compared to those with higher TEI.

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Why is it important?

We offer the first, preliminary analysis of relationships between Emotional intelligence and social media stress ( a combination of social media dependency and negative affect arising from engagement with social media). Consistent with other research, we show that the way emotional intelligence is measured (and theorised about) matters when we are trying to unpack the relationship with important life outcomes like mental health. Here, we find emotional skills do not interact with social media stress to predict mental health, but emotional personality (also know as emotional self-efficacy) was useful for predicting fewer depression symptoms. It will be important now to see if this pattern holds over time and in a larger sample but our findings offer tentative support to the rationale for training TEI, and we suggest benefits may extend to managing virtual as well as in-person contexts.

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This page is a summary of: Social media stress and mental health: A brief report on the protective role of emotional intelligence, Current Psychology, April 2022, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1007/s12144-022-03035-9.
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