Is Facebook Making You Sad?

Frequent Facebook use could lead to decline in well being

(RxWiki News) Facebook allows people to connect with family and friends all over the world, but frequent usage may have negative effects.

A recent study found that the more people used Facebook, the worse they felt and the less satisfied they were with their lives over time.

However, the researchers also found that more real-life social interactions were linked to an increase in happiness.

"Limit the amount of time you spend on social media."

This study was led by Ethan Kross, PhD, in the Psychology Department at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The research team wanted to examine whether Facebook use affected people's satisfaction with their lives, and how they feel from moment to moment.

To be eligible for the study, participants had to have a Facebook account and a touch-screen smartphone. The final sample included 82 individuals.

Before the study began, the participants completed a series of surveys to measure depression, self-esteem, social support, satisfaction with life and reasons for using Facebook.

Once the study began, the participants were sent text messages five times a day for 14 days. The messages were sent at random times and included a link to a survey that the participants had to complete.

In these surveys, participants were asked to respond to statements about how they felt, their level of worry, their level of loneliness, their Facebook usage and how much they had interacted with people in real life.

Participants completed the survey again immediately after the 14-day study period.

The researchers considered several factors when analyzing their findings, including size of Facebook network, perceived supportiveness from Facebook network, motivation for using Facebook, gender, loneliness, self-esteem and depression.

The sample was 65 percent female and 61 percent white, with the average age being 19.5 years.

The researchers found that the more people used Facebook at one point in time, the worse they felt the next time they were sent a text message. They also found that the more people used Facebook over the study period, the greater the decline in their satisfaction with life.

Interestingly, the authors found that real-life social interactions did not have this negative affect on life satisfaction, and more real-life interactions actually predicted an increase in happiness.

The researchers also found that the relationship between Facebook usage and happiness or satisfaction with life was not changed by any of the following: size of people’s Facebook networks, perceived supportiveness of networks, motivation for using Facebook, gender, loneliness, self-esteem or depression.

The study authors concluded that based on their findings, Facebook use may diminish happiness and well-being.

"This study is a small sample size, so the results need to be kept in perspective. If you are not satisfied with your life, it may be important to talk to your therapist about how you define happiness or satisfaction, and then identify action steps that might help you more actively pursue your hopes and dreams," LuAnn Pierce, LCSW, a social worker in Colorado and dailyRx Contributing Expert, told dailyRx News.

"The things that make us happy and satisfied in life change over time, but it is up to us to take baby steps toward those sometimes elusive states of being. One who seeks happiness or satisfaction in things that are out of their control (other people) or unattainable based on their reality might find cognitive behavioral therapy useful," said Pierce. 

This study was published on August 14 in PLOS ONE.

The study authors reported no conflicts of interest. 

Review Date: 
August 15, 2013