By The Editors
Facebook may be big in helping people connect, but may not be that big in making people happy. Indeed, results from a study published in the scientific journal PLOSone indicate that Facebook use predicts decreases in a user’s well being.
The study, entitled “Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults” (August 14, 2013), has been carried out by a group of investigators from the University of Michigan (U.S.) and the University of Leuven (Belgium).
For the study, the researchers recruited 82 young adults, a core Facebook user demographic. All of them had smart phones and Facebook accounts. They used experience-sampling—one of the most reliable techniques for measuring how people think, feel, and behave moment-to-moment in their daily lives—to assess their subjective well-being by texting them at random times five times a day for two weeks.
Each text message contained a link to an online survey with five questions:
- How do you feel right now?
- How worried are you right now?
- How lonely do you feel right now?
- How much have you used Facebook since the last time we asked?
- How much have you interacted with other people “directly” since the last time we asked?
The study found that the more people used Facebook during one time period, the worse they subsequently felt. The authors also asked people to rate their level of life satisfaction at the start and end of the study. They found that the more participants used Facebook over the two-week study period, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time.
Importantly, the researchers found no evidence that interacting directly with other people via phone or face-to-face negatively influenced well-being. Instead, they found that direct interactions with other people led people to feel better over time.
They also found no evidence for two alternative possible explanations for the finding that Facebook undermines happiness. People were not more likely to use Facebook when they felt bad. In addition, although people were more likely to use Facebook when they were lonely, loneliness and Facebook use both independently predicted how happy participants subsequently felt.
The authors, in the Concluding Comment of the article, state that “The human need for social connection is well established, as are the benefits that people derive from such connections. On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling such needs by allowing people to instantly connect. Rather than enhancing well-being, as frequent interactions with supportive “offline” social networks powerfully do, the current findings demonstrate that interacting with Facebook may predict the opposite result for young adults—it may undermine it.”