Feeling Sad? Study Says Facebook Is To Blame

Using Facebook may, just possibly, make you feel a bit more sad, according to a new study. But the devil's in the details.

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]

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8 Comments

  • Todd Freeman

    Its actually pretty easy to figure out what aspect of facebook is making people sad.
    When you have an enormous number of people lying to each other about how great everything is, and social pressure to not say anything negative, many people think everyone else is happy and they are not.

  • Zen Galacticore

    Excellent point and perspective. On FB, everyone's life is a wagon-load of peaches and cream rolling down a yellow-brick road. Yeah right. It (FB), also is apparently fueling mass narcissism.

  • guest

    Studies were done over 10 years ago showing that people spending more time online was correlated to higher levels of depression.  It's not just Facebook.

  • Foolsama

    The cause?  I can jokingly say 'Candy Crush and Farmville spam'  but I suspect it's more to do with the watered-down and biased 'news' that gets forwarded around.  It's also been proven that watching the news on TV gets you down - because it's designed to.  Facebook is even less researched and more biased. 

  • Lester Bryant III

    The sample size of 82 is Freudian. How many active users does Facebook have? Facebook has nearly one half of a Billion daily users. I expect better of you Fast Company, but no matter. I will go now to Facebook which makes me very happy.

  • Zen Galacticore

    Tens of millions of people have more than one FB account, under different aliases and emails. That, "one half of Billion daily users" is misleading to say the least. But if it makes you happy, knock yourself out with all of your, "friends".

  • Tom

    Looking at how most of the people from my home town are turning out, I think my facebook feed generates a good laugh every once in a while