Ever spend a marathon session on Facebook and come away from it feeling depressed? That’s because your brain is normal. Study after study has come out condemning social media for promoting depressive symptoms in both heavy and casual users. And a new study corroborates those findings.
The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, examined data collected through the Gallup Panel Social Network Study survey on 5,208 people. They compared Facebook usage against self-reported physical and mental health indices, along with general life satisfaction and body-mass index. They also compared social networks online with the real-world social lives of the study’s subjects. Their findings were grisly.
According to the study’s results, the more you use Facebook, the worse you will feel about yourself. Every time a study subject updated their Facebook status or clicked a link on Facebook, their mental health score dropped between five and eight percent. This is directly inverse to the effect actual social interactions have on us, which increase our feelings of wellness.
The researchers don’t offer any hard conclusions about why this would be the case. The researchers commented, “While we expected that ‘liking’ other people’s content would be more likely to lead to negative self-comparisons and thus decreases in well-being, updating one’s own status and clicking links seemed to have a similar effect.”
According to their conclusions, how much you use Facebook is more important than how you use it. Even if you’re using it to have dialogues with friends and browsing content you find interesting, the effect is the same.
As with everything that’s potentially / demonstrably bad for you, moderation is important. Facebook and other social media platforms are so integrated into our lives that they’re borderline compulsory. So when you do have to spend time online, make sure you don’t overdo it. If you go too far down the rabbit hole you may come out the other side significantly more depressed and unhealthy than when you went in.
Social media may negatively impact us because we cannot help but compare our lives to the lives of our friends and acquaintances. And people tend to portray themselves online in the most positive possible light. It’s easy to feel insecure when everyone on your timeline is a superhero rock climber megamom who never gains weight or frowns. But rest assured (?) that they are all playing the same game you are. Next time you want to log on, keep it brief.