Facebook helps people feel connected, but at the same time using the social networking site makes them unhappy, a new study suggests.
Facebook use actually predicts declines in a user's well-being, according to a University of Michigan study that is the first to examine the social networking site's influence on happiness and satisfaction.
"On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection," said Ethan Kross, lead author of the study. "But rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result - it undermines it," said Kross.
"This is a result of critical importance because it goes to the very heart of the influence that social networks may have on people's lives," said John Jonides, co-author of the study. Researchers recruited 82 young adults, a core Facebook user demographic. All of them had smartphones and Facebook accounts.
They used experience-sampling - one of the most reliable techniques for measuring how people think, feel, and behave moment-to-moment in their daily lives - to assess their subjective well-being by texting them at random times five times a day for two weeks. Each text message contained a link to an on-line survey with five questions.
The study found that the more people used Facebook during one time period, the worse they subsequently felt. Researchers also asked people to rate their level of life satisfaction at the start and end of the study.
They found that the more participants used Facebook over the two-week study period, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time. Importantly, the researchers found no evidence that interacting directly with other people via phone or face-to-face negatively influenced well-being.
Instead, they found that direct interactions with other people led people to feel better over time. They also found no evidence for two alternative possible explanations for the finding that Facebook undermines happiness. People were not more likely to use Facebook when they felt bad.
Although people were more likely to use Facebook when they were lonely, loneliness and Facebook use both independently predicted how happy participants subsequently felt. "Thus, it was not the case that