Me? I like Facebook. My feed gives me pictures and updates of friends and family, and politics carefully filtered for only information I agree with. But then there’s this, published recently in the Harvard Business Review. A New, More Rigorous Study Confirms: The More You Use Facebook, the Worse You Feel. Who can argue with data?
That Facebook affects the rest of our lives, negatively, is not a new idea. But not everybody agrees with it. Here’s how that article presents it
“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. Self-comparison can be a strong influence on human behavior, and because people tend to display the most positive aspects of their lives on social media, it is possible for an individual to believe that their own life compares negatively to what they see presented by others. 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.”
The emphasis there is mine. I often question research by looking at the skewed data it starts with, which is the idea in italics. I also like to think social media in general enriches my life. It helps me keep up with friends, and, in my case at least, has generated some new friends. Who have become, over time, actual real friends.
The research, however, is not so rosy. It concludes:
“Overall, our results showed that, 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.”
There too, emphasis is mine, and, in relating to what’s there in boldface, ouch! Now I’m worried that there’s something wrong with me. I’m do like others’ content, and I do click links, but – damn – my self-reported health and life satisfaction aren’t going down. That is, until now, reading this research. Suddenly I’m concerned.