Going on Facebook might make you feel more down about yourself, a new study reveals.
Researchers at the University of Michigan discovered that people who used Facebook were less happy after two weeks, and they were more glum than usual at the time they were using the social network.
"On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection," lead author Ethan Kross, a faculty associate and social psychologist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor, said in a press release."But rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result - it undermines it."
The researchers looked at 82 young adults who used Facebook. At random moments five times a day for two weeks, they texted the subjects and asked them about what they thought and felt, how often they used Facebook and how much they had interacted with people in the real world.
Most of the participants said they used Facebook to stay in touch with people, and 23 percent said they used the social network to meet new people. More than 75 percent said they shared good news with their peers through the medium, but 36 percent said they also posted negative things their lives.
Researchers discovered that the more people used Facebook, the worse they felt about themselves. The subjects who used Facebook the most over the two-week period had the greatest declines in life satisfaction levels.
Dr. Guy Winch, a New York psychologist and author of "Emotional First Aid," told TIME that reading posts from other users that brag about their accomplishments can make others feel more down about themselves.
"It comes up in sessions all the time," Winch said. "Patients feel really bad: they went online and liked their friends' vacation photos, but their friend didn't like theirs. In the throes of a nasty breakup, their ex wrote something really bad about them and blasted it all over. I hear this literally all the time. People have huge emotional experiences on social media, especially Facebook, and they bring it into sessions."
Researchers also found that direct, physical interaction made people feel better over time. Talking over the phone or face-to-face was not shown to lower well-being, no matter what the subjects talked about.
The researchers want to follow up on the study with more research on Facebook users from different age groups to find out how much this study's results relate to the overall population and the psychological reasons behind why Facebook users are more likely to feel down.
Catalina Toma, a University of Wisconsin communication researcher who found that Facebook could increase self-esteem, said that the fact that this study went against what she found means more research needs to be done on the topic.
"I think what's happening, honestly, is that Facebook is such a gigantic space where so many different activities take place," Toma, who was not involved in the study, said to the Los Angeles Times. "So for us to be simply talking about Facebook use is an over-simplification. Facebook use is not just one thing; it is many, many different things."
The study was published in PLOS One on Aug. 14.
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