While it seems like the entire world is on Facebook, anybody who has managed to stay off the mega social network may get some satisfaction from the finding of this study. Public Library of Science has published a study that has found that the more time somebody spends on Facebook, the more unsatisfied they will feel about their own life.
The study was conducted by Dr. Philippe Verduyn of the Leuven University and Dr. Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan. While previous studies have found that Facebook use is often associated with feelings of isolation, jealousy, social tension and even depression, they were all cross-sectional studies. This means that they only looked at participants in a given point in time. As a result, the results of these studies could not prove causation. The study done by Dr. Kross and Dr. Verduyn was the first to study participants over an extended period of time, tracking the change in their emotions.
82 Facebook users were recruited for the study. The participants, all in their late teens to early 20s, were observed over the course of two weeks. They gave reports 5 times a day regarding their state of mind in addition to any direct social contacts, such as phone calls or actual meetings in person. The participants completed short questionnaires throughout the day between 10 am and 12am, receiving text messages when it was time to do so.
Upon analyzing the results, researchers found that the more a participant was on Facebook in between filling out questionnaires, the worse they reported feeling on the next questionnaire. Participants were also asked to rate how satisfied they were with their lives at the beginning and end of the study. The participants who spent a lot of time on Facebook were much more likely to report having a decline in their satisfaction in comparison to those who did not frequent the site. Interestingly enough, participants who had direct social contact with other people were found to have an increase in satisfaction.
According to the study, a participant’s sex had no impact on the findings. The same is true of the participant’s motivation for using Facebook, the size of their social network, or the initial level of depression, loneliness or self-esteem. Kross and Verduyn were able to conclude that Facebook use undermined a person’s well-being as a result.
One thing that this study does not provide any insight into is why using Facebook has a different effect on people than socializing through direct contact. An earlier study may shed some light on the matter though. Researchers in Germany presented findings of study which surveyed 584 Facebook users mostly in their 20s. They found that the most common emotion that using Facebook caused is envy. As a result of comparing their own lives with those of their peers, Facebook user’s are often faced with those who have exaggerated their accomplishments, doctored their photos and plagiarized remarks and comments. It’s easy to see why envy is the dominant emotion evoked.
The bottom line is that sitting in front of your computer using Facebook all day can be detrimental to your health. What seemed like common sense before now has some actual research to back it up. So take some time away from the computer and go see some “real” people. You’ll feel better about yourself for it!