A brand-new survey from the University of Michigan has found a correlation between Facebook use and a feeling of sadness.
The survey asked 82 young adults how they felt and how much they had been using Facebook by messaging them five times a day for two weeks. The data suggest that Facebook use "predicts negative shifts on both of these variables [well being and satisfaction] over time." Essentially the Michigan team conclude that "the more people used Facebook at one time point, the worse they felt the next time we text-messaged them; the more they used Facebook over two-weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time."
Before you go squeaking about correlation and causation, the team controlled for this and found that interacting with other people "directly" didn't show the same trend. The size of the friend network on Facebook, the perceived supportiveness of the network, "motivation for using Facebook, gender, loneliness, self-esteem, or depression" all seemed to have no effect. This means that using Facebook--which you may feel gives users a notional sense of connectedness--may actually drive feelings of negativity.
But the study isn't perfect. A group of 82 is very small, and the data may not map well onto a far bigger and much more diverse population. There's also the possibility that using a computer at all may have the same effect--doesn't reading the news online make you feel a bit more angry about the world? Speaking to the L.A. Times, the team leader Ethan Kross noted, "one of the things we don’t know is what aspect of Facebook use is contributing to these results. Facebook and online social networks more generally represent a very new way in which human beings are interacting, and we’re really just beginning to scratch the surface as to how exactly these interactions work and how they influence us."
[Image via Flickr user: Romana Klee]