Facebook can be a bummer that makes us feel worse about our lives, according to
Users of the social networking site felt worse about themselves after two weeks, according to the findings of a study by University of Michigan researchers. Researchers determined users' moods darkened the more they used Facebook.
"We were able to show on a moment-to-moment basis throughout the day how people's mood fluctuated depending on their Facebook usage," said University of Michigan social psychologist Ethan Kross, lead author of the study. "We measured lots and lots of other personality and behavioral dimensions, like, for example, frequency of Facebook use, but none of the factors that we assessed influenced the results. The more you used Facebook, the more your mood dropped."
The study adds to a body of work examining social media's effect on well-being. Previous research has suggested increased time spent on social media reduces development of interpersonal relationships.
"Kids, especially, do concentrate on different types of social media and don't learn to communicate with people," said Joyce McDermott, clinical leader of the adult psychiatric services at Mercy Medical Center-Dubuque. "They lack the skills to find support."
The University of Michigan study involved 82 college-aged volunteers - a core demographic among Facebook's nearly 700 million active daily users - who answered questionnaires five times per day for 14 days, and rated their well-being at the beginning and end.
Worry did not predict changes in Facebook use, but loneliness did, according to the study. Nonetheless, when researchers controlled for loneliness, the relationship between Facebook use and mood and satisfaction were insignificant, Kross said.
"One of the things
we don't know is what aspect of
Facebook use is contributing to these results," Kross said. "Facebook and online social networks more generally represent a very new way in which human beings are interacting, and we're really just beginning to scratch the surface as to how exactly these interactions work and how they influence us."
If family members notice mood changes with Facebook use, Michelle Watters recommends raising the subject in a sharing way.
"If this concern is about somebody who already has mood-related issues, suggest they use their coping skills," said Watters, a licensed mental health counselor with Hillcrest Family Services. "If it is somebody who has not been diagnosed with mood-related issues, say that 'I've notice your mood is different once you have spent time on Facebook.'"
Like other social media, Facebook affords people the opportunity to contemplate, edit and enhance their presentation in ways that are difficult if not impossible during impromptu social interactions in the flesh. You can take hours to come up with a clever response, whereas most people have long left the cocktail party when they think of the perfect riposte.
McDermott recommends limiting time on Facebook.
"Don't depend on it 100 percent of the time," she said. "If people could step away from it they can develop real relationships with people."
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