Facebook Makes You Sad*

Problem

Facebook seems to upset you.

Reality

Well, Facebook has been shown to make people sad—but only if they’re using it passively, according to a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Methods

In one experiment, researchers had eighty-four subjects report how they were felling on a scale from zero to 100. Then, the subjects had to use Facebook for ten minutes. Half were told to post and comment on other people’s stuff, and the other half just had to browse.

In another experiment, researchers had eighty-two subjects report their mood, how often they’d used Facebook passively and actively, and how much envy they felt. This happened five times a day over six days.

Results

In the first test, subjects asked how they felt immediately after the test reported no difference. When asked later in the day, though, the passive Facebook users were, on average, nine per cent worse then what they’d previously said. The active users had no change.

In the second test, passive users felt an average of five per cent worse in their later check-ins compared to their previous ones. Researchers also wrote that passive Facebook usage predicted envy, and envy predicted a decline in “affective well-being”.

The Takeaway

If your Facebook ‘use’ doesn’t involve actual ‘using’—commenting, talking to people, sharing stuff—then maybe don’t use it. Comparing the way you feel to what people say on your timeline is a bit like comparing your entire filmography to their highlight reel. It’s a no-win situation—don’t do it.


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