Heavy Facebook use linked to depression

Apr 8 2015 - 11:14pm
Facebook use linked to depression

Although Facebook has made it easier than ever to stay connected with friends and family, spending too much time on the social network has been linked to depressive symptoms.

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Researchers from the University of Houston carried out two studies to determine how social comparison by Facebook users affected their psychological health. The first study, which included 180 participants, found that among both men and women time spent on Facebook was linked to depressive symptoms. However, making social comparisons only affected the link in men.

The second study, which involved 152 participants and used a 14-day diary design, confirmed that the link between time spent on Facebook and depressive symptoms was affected by social comparison. There was no difference between men and women.

However, study leader Mai-Ly Steers, a doctoral candidate in social psychology was quick to point out that the studies do not mean that Facebook causes depression, "but that depressed feelings and lots of time on Facebook and comparing oneself to others tend to go hand in hand.”

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Steers added, “One danger is that Facebook often gives us information about our friends that we are not normally privy to, which gives us even more opportunities to socially compare.”

Steers explained that Facebook friends usually only post good things and leave out the bad, which can make it seem like their lives are better than they really are. But for people who already experiencing emotional problems, comparing themselves to their friends “highlight reels” can make them feel even more isolated.

“This research and previous research indicates the act of socially comparing oneself to others is related to long-term destructive emotions,” she said. “Any benefit gained from making social comparisons is temporary and engaging in frequent social comparison of any kind may be linked to lower well-being."

A study published in the journal PLOS One found that posting positive comments on Facebook can make others write positive posts, while negative posts generate more negative posts. However, positive posts have a greater likelihood of spreading than negative posts.

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