Facebook can negatively affect sense of well-being, study shows

(Photo: REUTERS / Dado)The Samsung S4 and Nokia Lumia 820 smartphones are held up against a video screen with a Twitter and a Facebook logo in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, August 14, 2013.

A new study by researchers at the University of Michigan which shows that Facebook makes people unhappy has fueled the fire of critics of the social media site.

The benefits and drawbacks of Facebook have been debated since it skyrocketed to popularity in the last few years.

Founded in 2004, more than 1 billion people now use it and the number of persons using Facebook has increased 23 percent since last year.

However, even though it is lauded for connecting users with friends and workmates and for its use as a platform in such arenas as education, critics have attacked Mark Zuckerberg's creation for a variety of reasons.

"On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection," Ethan Kross, a social psychologist who led the work at the University of Michigan.

"But rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result – it undermines it."

The study also revealed that direct interaction with others made people feel better.

Researchers surveyed 82 young adults who had smartphones and Facebook accounts. The participants were asked to reply to questions sent by text message over a two-week period.

The results of the study were published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE on August 14.

Scientists looked at the two components of subject well-being: how people feel from moment-to-moment and how satisfied they are with their lives. They found that the more the respondents used Facebook at one point in time, the worse they felt the next time the researchers sent them a text message.

Furthermore, the research showed that the more the young adults used Facebook over the two-week period, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time.

The researchers indicated that their findings suggest that Facebook use may constitute a unique form of social network interaction that predicts impoverished well-being.

Oscar Ybarra, one of the Michigan scientists, explained that skewered content of the social media site may explain the results.

"Given the public nature of these sites, people end up reporting a lot of the positive things going on in their lives, and a user of Facebook might end up with a biased impression of other people's lives," he said.

"So, they might feel sub-par compared to their friends and all the wonderful things their friends are doing."


In 2011 Christian blogger Tim Chailes mentioned the misery Facebook users experience when they compare their lives with the seemingly perfect ones of their "friends".

"We log on to Facebook, look through the photographs and status messages our friends post, and believe that everyone is happier and more successful than we are," he said.

"And when I have spoken to friends and family members who have considered giving up Facebook, this is exactly the reasoning they have given. They look at other people and feel miserable in comparison."

Copyright © 2013 Ecumenical News