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The Emotional and Physical Impacts of Facebook

Danielle Bertini

A recent study done by researchers from UC San Diego and Yale have some advice for you to stay emotionally and physically healthy: limit the amount of time you spend on Facebook. Although this statement might sound like a broken record, this study has some impressive research to back up this claim. The study spent two years following 5,208 adults who are part of a Gallup long-term study. With permission, the researchers monitored these subjects’ Facebook use directly from Facebook, rather than asking subjects to self-report their own use (people often don’t realize how much time they spend on the social network).

Three times over the course of two years researchers checked in with the subjects’ emotional and physically wellbeing. So what were the results?

“Overall, our results showed that, while real-world social networks were positively associated with overall well-being, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being,” the researchers wrote in a Harvard Business Review article. “These results were particularly strong for mental health; most measures of Facebook use in one year predicted a decrease in mental health in a later year” (Shakya & Christakis, 2017). Pretty shocking.

So why is too much Facebook use bad for your emotional health? Past research has shown that it can create a false peer pressure. Because most people are very selective with what they post, and often don’t post negative or upsetting experiences on Facebook, the social network can create a misleading space where it seems that everyone is doing better and having more fun that you are (Zetlin, 2017).

There has has been a lot of research to show that having a social circle and an active social life and community leads to better health and longevity. So does Facebook’s ability to connect you to friends and family who might be far away contribute to this? The answer is actually no. In fact, the opposite effect is true. Besides negative self-comparison, increased use of Facebook and other social media tends to take up a lot of people’s time and can create an illusion of closeness (Shakya & Christakis, 2017). By spending excess amounts of time on Facebook, you are taking away from real-world social gatherings and therefore lose the benefit of being in a community. The same idea is likely true if you’re at a social gathering and rather than spending time interacting with others, your eyes and mind are locked on your smartphone, checking out your online friends’ latest posts.

So what does one do knowing all this information? With so many people all over the world using social networks, it can be unrealistic for some to completely stop using sites like Facebook. However, limiting your use to no more than one hour a day is something that is more realistic. Try putting down your phone more often and joining in on the conversation that is happening in the real world.

References

Shakya, H. B., & Christakis, N. (2017, April 10). A New, More Rigorous Study Confirms: The
More You Use Facebook, the Worse You Feel. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/04/a-new-more-rigorous-study-confirms-the-more-you-use-facebook-the-worse-you-feel

Zetlin, M. (2017, May 30). A 2-Year Study of More Than 5,000 People Shows This 1 Activity
Destroys Your Emotional and Physical Health. Retrieved from https://getpocket.com/explore/item/a-2-year-study-of-more-than-5-000-people-shows-this-1-activity-destroys-your-emotional-and-physical?utm_source=pocket-newtab

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