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A recent study has found that use of Facebook can predict how people feel and their level of life satisfaction.

Facebook has become a part of everyday life for many. With over 1 billion users worldwide, Facebook is the most popular social networking site in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. But how does our use of Facebook affect us on an emotional level? Can Facebook use affect our sense of well-being?

A study of 82 participants from Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States has reported on how use of Facebook can affect subjective well-being over time. The participants were sent text messages five times a day, over 14 days, which linked them to an online survey. The researchers assessed how Facebook interaction influences subjective well-being. This included both ‘affective’ well-being (how people feel), and ‘cognitive’ well-being (how satisfied people are with their lives).

The study reported that people tended to feel worse the more they used Facebook. However, the researchers reported that this was not a reverse effect. That is, people did not use Facebook more if they were already feeling bad. When assessing whether average Facebook use predicted life satisfaction, the researchers assessed participants’ cognitive well-being. They found that higher levels of Facebook use were associated with greater declines in levels of life satisfaction over time. Conversely, when the researchers assessed other forms of direct social interaction, they did not observe reductions in cognitive well-being, as was seen with increased Facebook use. Direct social interaction predicted increases in affective well-being, making people feel better.

The researchers suggest that future study should aim to identify whether this is a Facebook-specific effect, or whether these types of emotional changes are constant across social media platforms and user demographics. Additionally, they suggest that research should focus on the underlying causes of the reductions in well-being noted in this study. Some possibilities might include reductions in physical activity, or social comparisons made on Facebook between users.



Kross, E, Verduyn, P, Demiralp, E, Park, J, Lee, DS, Lin, N, Shablack, H, Jonides, J, Ybarra, O. “Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults” PLOS ONE Published: August 14, 2013. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069841

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Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD

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