Social media: the stuff of nightmares?

The more time you spend on social media, the greater the likelihood of having unpleasant social-media related dreams that cause distress, sleep disruption and impact our peace of mind.

Flinders University’s Reza Shabahang says that the vast and rapid adoption of social media has the potential to influence various aspects of life, including the realm of dreaming.

Mr Reza Shabahang

“As social media becomes increasingly intertwined with our lives, its impact extends beyond waking hours, and may influence our dreams,” says Mr Shabahang from the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work.

Mr Shabahang has developed a new scale, the Social Media Nightmare-Related Scale (SMNS), that can quantify how social media could contribute to our nightmares.

The SMNS was developed by integrating literature on dreaming, nightmares, and the relationship between media and dreams, with a focus on specific themes related to social media use, such as helplessness, loss of control and victimisation.

“Our study introduces the concept of social media-related nightmares, which are defined as nightmares that involve social media-related themes, such as cyberbullying, online hate or excessive social media use,” says Mr Shabahang.

“Whilst social media-related nightmares are relatively rare, those who use social media more during their daily lives are more likely to have social media-related nightmares that are associated with negative mental health outcomes, such as anxiety, depression, and sleep quality.

“This study provides insights into the complex relationships between social media use, mental health, and sleep quality,” he says.

Could social media be contributing to nightmares?

He warns that as the technological landscape continues to evolve, further research needs to explore the effects of social media on users’ dreaming experiences.

“With the rapid advances in technology and media, including artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality, along with the increasing dependency on these technologies and deeper integration, it is anticipated that dreams featuring technological and media content will become more frequent,” he says.

“Future studies have the potential to expand the scope of this exploration, delving into areas such as nightmares related to the perceived dangers of AI.

“To mitigate the occurrence of social media-related nightmares we recommend adopting a responsible and mindful use of social media,” he adds.

The paper, Social media-related nightmare — a potential explanation for poor sleep quality and low affective well-being in the social media era? by Reza Shabahang, Sohee Kim, Mara S. Aruguete, Pegah Azadimanesh, Zahra Ghaemi, Abbas Ali Hossein Khanzadeh, Keivan Kakabaraee and Ágnes Zsila has been published in BMC Psychology. DOI: 10.1186/s40359-024-01605-z

Posted in
College of Education, Psychology and Social Work