If browsing the holiday photos posted by your acquaintances on Facebook is making you feel less than merry, you’re not alone.
A study out of the University of Copenhagen has confirmed what a lot of people have long suspected: social media can make people miserable.
In particular, they found that the regular use of social networking sites like Facebook can have a negative impact on people’s satisfaction with their life and harm their emotional well-being. The study involved more than 1,000 participants, most of whom were women, and was published in Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking.
The researchers randomly placed study participants in one of two groups: one that would continue to use Facebook normally and another that stopped using the site for a week. Everyone was asked to evaluate themselves in terms of mood, level of worry, satisfaction with their social life, and ability to concentrate, among other factors, both before and after the study.
The group that took the social media break ended up noting an improvement in life satisfaction and a dramatic improvement in their emotional life. The well-being improvements were highest for those who were heavy users as well as passive users.
The “deterioration of mood” that Facebook users experience is often caused by “unrealistic social comparisons” brought on by spending too much time looking at the social media accounts of others. It’s especially prevalent among those who lurk on these sites without interacting with others. Those who actively engage with other people using social media tend to have a more positive experience.
However, it is probably a much wiser approach to give up social media altogether. If this thought is hard to fathom, why not try it for a week? There are a lot of other good reasons you might want to avoid Facebook.
A study from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health found that people who report using between 7 and 11 social media platforms were three times as likely to develop anxiety and depression than people who use two platforms or fewer, even after adjusting for the amount of time spent using social media in total and other factors like gender and age.
Even if you consider yourself mentally strong, you are not immune to being manipulated by the site. Facebook recently admitted that its news curators controlled which stories were highlighted in the site’s Trending Topics section and said that curators’ personal biases and political views could have influenced their choices. In addition, they did not deny the fact that their news curators avoided linking out to news sites such as Breitbart. They also admitted that their employees could blacklist stories for 24 hours. Former news curators for the site have reported there was a strong effort to push liberal news sites.
The site has also recently launched an initiative to bury what it calls “fake news” in the wake of criticism that the social media platform was responsible for spreading political misinformation during the election. They have formed a fact-checking network composed of controversial outlets such as Politifact, ABC and Snopes, who will determine if stories are fake and then bury them in the news feed accordingly. Snopes is an unprofessional website known for its liberal bias, and most of the rest of the fact-checkers are similarly problematic.
No one should rely on Facebook for their news, but even those who use it for more social purposes should seriously reconsider. With Facebook reporting that it has more than 1.59 billion active users around the world, there is the potential for great harm if people do not take a moment to think carefully about how their use of the site could impact their emotional well-being.