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Prolonged Facebook use results in people feeling depressed -- but only when it causes envy.
Are you more depressed or more cheerful after spending a long time on Facebook? If depressed, it could be that you don’t feel the time spent has been worthwhile, or that “Facebook envy” is a factor. Two research projects have examined the theory that Facebook use depresses people’s mood.
The first project, led by a scholar in Austria, includes three studies. The first and second of these confirm that the more time people spend using Facebook the more depressed they feel subsequently, even when set against two varying “control conditions”. Moreover, it was demonstrated that this outcome is linked to a sense that the activity was not worthwhile. Why then do millions of people still use Facebook every day? The third study indicates the possibility that people make an “affective forecasting error”, envisaging they will feel more positive following their time on Facebook but, in the event, feeling more depressed.
An alternative view of this subject is provided by the second project, conducted by scholars based in Singapore and the USA. This study asks if “facebooking” is depressing, and researches the idea that envy may be involved. Its conclusion is that “facebooking” is not depressing, except for instances when it stimulates envious feelings (e.g. when reading friends’ posts or viewing their photos). This research into Facebook use, involving 736 undergraduate students in one U.S. university studying aspects of journalism, analyses data according to the “social rank theory of depression”. Among its outcomes are the following:
a) Using Facebook can set off envious emotions. b) It was discovered that envious emotions “predicted” signs of depression. c) Facebook use improves mood, in fact, when “Facebook envy” is “controlled for” (i.e. not taken into account).
A helpful online article (from the UK) about the above “Facebook envy” research and its findings can be found at “NHS choices” (see the URL below entitled “‘Facebook envy’ associated with symptoms of depression”). Additionally, at the end of the article there is a link to resources that may be of help with addressing “patterns of unhelpful thinking”, of which envy may be one.
Facebook users: are you inclined to portray yourself positively in your FB profile? What is the effect you have on other FB users, and what is their effect on you?
People who are more deeply involved in Facebook are more inclined to think that others are happier and have better lives. One study of social media usage investigates how Facebook use affects the impressions users have of the lives of other people.
The researchers maintain that there are two tendencies that explain why people who spend more time on Facebook perceive others differently from people who do not use Facebook as much. These are: a) Facebook users are inclined to make assessments on the basis of information and examples that quickly come to mind rather than examining all the alternatives (the “availability heuristic”); b) Facebook users are inclined to ascribe the affirmative material displayed on Facebook to other people’s nature or character, rather than to reasons originating in specific situations (“correspondence bias”), particularly for people they are not acquainted with in person.
For the research project, 425 students at a North American university, studying a variety of subjects at undergraduate level, completed surveys that included questions determining: number of years of Facebook use, number of weekly hours using Facebook, quantity of Facebook "friends", and impressions of the lives other people are leading.
The “multivariate analysis” showed that people who have been Facebook users longer concurred to a greater extent that other people were “happier”, and concurred to a lesser extent that “life is fair”. People using Facebook more on a weekly basis concurred to a greater extent that other people were “happier” and their lives were better. Moreover, people who had more Facebook “friends” whom they were not acquainted with in person concurred to a greater extent that other people “had better lives.”
Source: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22165917 "They are happier and having better lives than I am": the impact of using Facebook on perceptions of others' lives. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2012 Feb;15(2):117-21. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2011.0324. Epub 2011 Dec 14. ... See MoreSee Less