Five hundred million people log onto Facebook at least once a day. As the undisputed king of social networking, Facebook is where we share pictures, discuss news stories, and catch up with friends we haven’t seen since high school, but could it also be stealing our happiness?
A recent study from the University of Michigan investigated the impact of regular Facebook use on human well-being. The results showed that the more people used Facebook, the lower they rated their current mood and overall level of satisfaction with life.
The researchers “found that…the more frequently people used Facebook, the worse they felt immediately afterward. Additionally, the more they used Facebook over the course of two weeks, the less satisfied and happy they were with their lives as a whole.”
Well, that’s worthy of a big “dislike.” Here’s what the scientists say could be happening the more time we spend in the virtual world.
1. Facebook makes us jealous: The study found (as many have noted over the years) that most people only post “glowingly positive stuff” on Facebook. Too much time spent browsing everyone else’s highlight reel can make us feel crappy about our own lives.
2. Facebook makes us feel left out: Sure, we have lots of digital connections, but they can’t take us out to lunch or listen to us cry about a mean boss. When we spend time reading posts about other people doing fun stuff, we feel bad because they’re doing it without us.
3. Facebook makes us stalkers: A disturbing number of people spend most of their Facebook time searching for “exes, frenemies, people they don’t necessarily like, and people they can’t be with in real life,” explain the authors. Not surprisingly, this encourages us to dwell on past failures, and makes us feel unsatisfied.
The researchers arrived at these results by text messaging a group of 82 participants periodically over a 2 week period. Each text asked the participant to describe how they felt at that exact moment, and how satisfied they felt with their lives. The more people used Facebook at one time point, the worse they felt the next time they were text-messaged; the more they used Facebook over two-weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time. Admittedly, this is a small sample size, but if you’re anything like me, these results only reinforce something we’ve all noticed.
“People should be aware that Facebook can have these effects on you,” Oscar Ybarra, one of the additional authors of the University of Michigan study, told ABC News. “Awareness is important, and it’s also important to remember that Facebook is a public place where you get a very biased version of people’s lives.”