Just about everyone has a Facebook account these days. However, a new study may have proven that the few of us who don’t engage with the social media giant just might be better off. It turns out, Facebook may have a negative impact on our well being.
Data from 2016 shows that the average user spends approximately 50 minutes on Facebook a day. I think it’s safe to say many of us log in for a lot longer. According to the study, the more we use it, the more Facebook makes us unhappy. The research was conducted by Holly B. Shakya of the University of California and Nicholas A. Christakis of Yale University. Although previous studies on social media and harm have had similar findings, they were either limited in scope or focused on multiple social media sites rather than only on Facebook.
This is also the first study to focus on quantity of time spent on social media, rather than solely on quality of time, which contributes to a decreased report in ‘happiness’. For this study, 5,208 subjects were recruited in three groups (2013, 2014, and 2015), and each wave’s Facebook activity was monitored for a period of two years. The study confirmed a decrease in well-being the more one used the platform. Simple actions on Facebook such as clicking a link, updating your status, or clicking ‘like’, were, on average, associated with a decrease of five to eight percent in mental health well-being.
Other information taken directly from users’ accounts was also taken into consideration such as time spent online, number of friends, and how often a user reacted to a post. Researches Shakya and Christakis explained that to calculate well-being they measured self reported mental health and self reported physical health. They were able to link specific activities to the decrease in ‘happiness’. “We found consistently that both liking others’ content and clicking links significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction.” The study also claims that there is a tradeoff between online and offline interaction, with the negative effects of online use being comparable to the benefits of offline interactions.
The study revealed that the greatest danger of excessive Facebook use occured when users believed they were engaging in human interaction, when in reality they were not receiving the same kinds of benefits as from face to face encounters. This may be because an online presence can be carefully controlled by its user, presenting a ‘happier’ version of him or herself online, which only proves to make others feel inadequate. How many times did it take for you to capture the perfect profile picture? Did you retouch it? Have you posted about all the good things that have happened to you and none of the bad things?
Previous studies have shown that depression can be alleviated from spending face to face time with other people. The greatest effect was from recieving human touch, such as getting a hug or a friendly touch on the shoulder. The effect was still present in phone conversations, but disappeared when subjects only texted with each other. Similar to when on Facebook, the benefits of social interaction do not seem to be present when interacted only through text.
Do these findings make you want to spend less time logged in to your Facebook account? Perhaps instead of posting another silly selfie, maybe reach out and call a friend, or perhaps even give someone a hug. It might be good for your mental health! But, if you’re a bona fide social media addict, here are some top tips from a “social media expert” to help you stand out and get seen:
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