The More You Use Facebook, The Worse You Say You Feel, New Study Reports

Written by Staff

We know that old-fashioned social interaction is healthy.

What about social interaction that is completely mediated through an electronic screen? When you wake up in the morning and tap on that little blue icon, what impact does it have on you?

Research has shown that the use of social media may erode self-esteem through unfavorable social comparison.

From Harvard Business Review. Story by Holly B. Shakya and Nicholas A. Christakis

Self-comparison can be a strong influence on human behavior, and because people tend to display the most positive aspects of their lives on social media, it is possible for an individual to believe that their own life compares negatively to what they see presented by others.

Some skeptics have wondered if perhaps people with lower well-being are more likely to use social media, rather than social media causing lower well-being. Other studies have found that social media use has a positive impact on well-being through increased social support and reinforcement of real world relationships.

We wanted to get a clearer picture of the relationship between social media use and well-being. In our study we used three waves of data from 5,208 adults from a national longitudinal panel maintained by the Gallup organization, coupled with several different measures of Facebook usage, to see how well-being changed over time in association with Facebook use.

Image: Jasu Hu

Facebook well-being

Our results showed that, while real-world social networks were positively associated with overall well-being, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being. These results were particularly strong for mental health. Most measures of Facebook use in one year predicted a decrease in mental health in a later year.

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.

Overall our results suggest that well-being declines are also matter of quantity of use rather than only quality of use. If this is the case, our results contrast with previous research arguing that the quantity of social media interaction is irrelevant, and that only the quality of those interactions matter.

These results then may be relevant for other forms of social media.

Read more at Harvard Business Review.

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