A New Study Confirms: The More You Use Facebook, the Worse You Feel

There was an interesting article on the Harvard Business Review web site today, titled “A New, More Rigorous Study Confirms: The More You Use Facebook, the Worse You Feel“, by Holly B. Shakya and Nicholas A. Christakis.

The authors note that thousands of studies have concluded that most human beings thrive when they have strong, positive relationships with other human beings. However, not as much is known about the effects of using social media as a way to establish and maintain relationships.

They write, “Prior research has shown that the use of social media may detract from face-to-face relationships, reduce investment in meaningful activities, increase sedentary behavior by encouraging more screen time, lead to internet addiction, and erode self-esteem through unfavorable social comparison… But some skeptics have wondered if perhaps people with lower well-being are more likely to use social media, rather than social media causing lower well-being. Moreover, other studies have found that social media use has a positive impact on well-being through increased social support and reinforcement of  real world relationships.”

So the authors set out to conduct a more rigorous study of the impact of social media on relationships. You can read the details of how the study was conducted here, but here is what they found:

while real-world social networks were positively associated with overall well-being, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being. These results were particularly strong for mental health; most measures of Facebook use in one year predicted a decrease in mental health in a later year. We found consistently that both liking others’ content and clicking links significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction… The results (also) suggest that well-being declines are also a matter of quantity of use rather than only quality of use.

They did not find much difference between the three types of activity that were measured — liking, posting, and clicking links  — and the impact on the user.

The authors conclude “that the nature and quality of this sort of connection (social media) is no substitute for the real world interaction we need for a healthy life.”

I must admit that I check Facebook multiple times per day, but I would still consider myself a low to average user of Facebook. I don’t do much liking or commenting, and beyond posting a link on Facebook to my blog each day, I don’t post that often either.

But at the same time, I am subject to the temptation to check to see who is doing what and if anyone has commented on my blog posts, and it is hard to resist such a temptation.

So I am going to see if I can get through the next three days without checking Facebook at all. I know lots of people have talked about such social media diets, but I didn’t think I needed to go on one.

Since I still plan to post my blog to Facebook and Twitter, I have installed a WordPress plugin that will enable me to do so right from the WordPress. This should allow me to avoid having to open up Facebook or Twitter, and getting sucked into a time warp on those sites.

I’ll check things on Saturday and let you know how my little experiment has gone.

In the meantime, if you too would like having to use Facebook to get my posts, you can always just hit the subscribe button on the left, and you’ll get an email with a link to my post delivered to your inbox every day.

I’ve given up meat and alcohol, I think I can give up Facebook for three days…


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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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