Facebook Makes You Unhappy, According to Science

Tuesday, 10 November 2015 - 2:34PM
Science News
Tuesday, 10 November 2015 - 2:34PM
Facebook Makes You Unhappy, According to Science
Facebook naysayers level many criticisms against it: Facebook discourages in-person interaction, it inspires envy of friends' seemingly perfect lives, it generally makes people less happy even as it's supposed to be fun and innocuous. But is there any truth to these accusations? According to a study conducted by the Happiness Research Institute, there is, as it found that people who took a break from Facebook felt a significant increase in happiness within only a week.

For the study, the researchers divided a sample of 1095 people into a treatment group and control group; the treatment group refrained from using Facebook for a week, while the control group continued their normal usage. Under normal circumstances, 94% of the participants used Facebook at least once a day, 86% browsed the News Feed often, and 78% used Facebook for more than 30 minutes per day. Tellingly, 61% of them preferred to "post their good side" on Facebook, and 69% preferred to post "great things they experience."

Opening quote
"Social media is a non-stop great news channel. A constant flow of edited lives which distorts our perception of reality," the authors of the study wrote.
Closing quote

After only one week without Facebook, the treatment group saw a significantly higher self-reported life satisfaction, while the change in the control group was statistically insignificant. 84% said they appreciated their lives, as opposed to 75% in the control group, while only 12% reported dissatisfaction, compared to 20% in the control group.

They were also asked about the emotions they had felt on the day they came in, when the treatment group had gone a week without Facebook. Across the board, those used Facebook were much more likely to report feeling sad emotions that day, and less likely to report positive emotions. The control group felt more sad, worried, lonely, angry, and depressed, but less happy, enthusiastic, and decisive, and were less likely to report "enjoying life."

And although the entire purpose of Facebook is to improve one's social life, those who stopped using it reported an increase in both "real world" social activity and satisfaction in their social lives. They also experienced less concentration difficulties and were 18% more likely to feel "present in the moment." By contrast, those who used Facebook were 55% more likely to experience overall stress.

There are many potential explanations for this, but the authors of the study focused particularly on envy. Because people try to project an image of perfection on social media, people who use it tend to feel inadequate as a result of social comparison. The authors found that 1 out of 3 people feel envious of others' happiness on Facebook, one-half envy others' experiences posted on Facebook, and 4 out of 10 envy others' apparent success on Facebook.

Opening quote
"Instead of focusing on what we actually need, we have an unfortunate tendency to focus on what other people have," the authors wrote.
Closing quote

Via Phys.org.
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