Pope Francis' effect on social media

Screenshot of CNN Money map showing Internet use at Pope Francis' election.

The recent visit of Pope Francis to the U.S. this month caused a lot of lively discussion on social media, from shared photos of pope dogs to Twitter hashtags. It was great to see how the rest of the U.S. and the world got to participate in his visit, from afar.

On the other hand (of course there is always another hand!) the pope himself has spoken out against the overuse of social media and how it can cause what he calls “mental pollution.” To that end, Pew Research Center released a study earlier this year about the links between social media use and psychological wellbeing.

Check out these stats, along with a map highlighting spikes in Internet traffic from 2013 when Pope Francis was elected pontiff  — and then check yourself to make sure you are engaging with online media in a manner that feels healthy to you.

  • 329 is the average number of Facebook friends for a person to have.
  • Most people share an average of four photos online each week.
  • For men, there is no relationship between psychological stress and frequent use of social media. For women, social media use is tied to lower levels of stress. Women who actively use social media, compared with non-users, reported 21 percent less stress (on Pew's stress measure). 

[Georgia Perry is a freelance writer based in Oakland, California. She's contributed to several print and online magazines including, The Atlantic, CityLab, Portland Monthly Magazine and the Portland Mercury. She was formerly a staff writer at the Santa Cruz Weekly in California. Follow her on Twitter @georguhperry.]