Why Facebook Makes You Unhappy

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Researchers and advertisers alike are using Facebook data to predict more specific things about you.
DCI

The more you browse through your news feed, post comments and like posts on Facebook, the more likely you are to feel unhappy and dissatisfied with your life.

It’s not that people gravitate toward social media when they’re feeling blue, found a new study. Instead, Facebook use actually seems to breed discontent. It’s still not clear why -- and it’s possible that only certain styles of Facebooking lead to distress -- but the researchers have some suspicions.

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“Given the public nature of these sites, people end up reporting a lot of the positive things going on in their lives, and a user of Facebook might end up with a biased impression of other people’s lives,” said Oscar Ybarra, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. “So, they might feel sub-par compared to their friends and all the wonderful things their friends are doing.”

Real-life relationships have all sorts of benefits, studies show. Positive social interactions can boost happiness and intelligence and lead to better decision-making. People who are more socially integrated live longer, healthier lives. The list, Ybarra said, “goes on and on.”

There has been far less research on the psychological effects of social media, even though more than 500 million people log on to Facebook every day, and twice that many have profiles.

To see how the site might affect well being, Ybarra and colleagues collected data on about 80 people, who started and ended the two-week study by completing psychological surveys that assessed their levels of life satisfaction, self-esteem, depression and other psychological factors.

During the 14-day study period, the researchers texted each participant at five random times a day and asked them questions about how they were feeling at that moment and how much time they had spent on Facebook since the last message.