The more you use Facebook, the more unhappy you're likely to be, new research suggests. Of course, this isn't the first time we've mused over whether social media is detrimental to your mental health, but the new University of Michigan study, further expounded by Scientific American, focuses on the disparity between real world and online social contact and how they influence our own sense of well-being.
Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza
In the study, college students filled out a questionnaire regarding their overall life contentment. For the next two weeks, they would respond to five daily text messages evaluating their current sense of well-being. The results indicated that those who responded following a Facebook session reported being less content than those who hadn't been active on the social media platform. "Across the two weeks, increased Facebook use was associated with declines in affect," the study states. At the end of the research period, those who used Facebook the most also reported a decline in overall satisfaction, too. It seems that in just two weeks, life in general seemed that much worse for the active Facebookers. Yikes!
The researchers also tested to see if ANY form of social interaction might cause a similar decrease. Perhaps talking to others just makes us feel worse about ourselves? Not so, the study concluded: "Interacting with other people 'directly' did not predict declines in well-being. In fact, direct social network interactions led people to feel better over time. This suggests that Facebook use may constitute a unique form of social network interaction that predicts impoverished well-being."
Are you depressed just reading this? Don't panic yet. This is just a correlational (not causal) study, the average respondent was about 19 years old, and it only applies to Facebook. There's too many variables — like other age groups and other social media platforms — that remain untested to draw a definitive conclusion here. Additionally, Scientific American points out, "since participants were reporting on their mood and Facebook use at the same time, it could be that reflecting on how they felt could have changed how much they remembered using Facebook." Still, though, the study suggests that no matter what, face-to-face communication is generally more satisfying for people than remote, digital contact. Deep down, you already knew that, right? (Scientific American)