Facebook can lead to unhappiness, according to new study

University of Michigan researchers find a correlation between using the social network and a decline in user-well being

Heather Saul
Thursday 15 August 2013 16:44

Using Facebook may makes us feel more connected, but it does not necessarily make us happy, according to the findings of a new study.

Research comparing how 82 young adults felt at different times of the day with their Facebook use found that regular use of the social network predicted a decline in user well-being.

Researchers based at the University of Michigan sent text messages to each participant five times a day to examine how they were feeling emotionally from “moment-to-moment” and how "satisfied" they were with their lives.

Questions the participants were asked to answer included: "How do you feel right now? How worried are you right now? How lonely do you feel right now? How much have you used Facebook since the last time we asked? How much have you interacted with other people "directly" since the last time we asked?"

Results showed that the more the participants were active on the social networking site during one period, the worse they subsequently felt.

But the more face-to-face contact participants had with other people, the happier they gradually became.

They also found no evidence for two alternative possible explanations for the finding that Facebook undermines happiness - people were not more likely to use Facebook when they felt bad.

In addition, although participants were more likely to use Facebook when they were lonely, loneliness and Facebook use both independently predicted how happy participants felt afterwards.

Ethan Kross, lead author on the study said: "On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection.

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

"This is a result of critical importance because it goes to the very heart of the influence that social networks may have on people's lives," added John Jonides, co-author of the study.

Their results were published in the PLOS ONE journal.

The research concluded that whilst Facebook “provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection”, rather than improving well-being “these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it.”

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