Social networks, including Facebook, increase the risk of being exposed to "offensive behaviours and hate speech", which could have a harmful effect on users' mental wellbeing, a new study has warned.
Scientists, including those from the Sapienza University of Rome, explored survey data from 50,000 people in 24,000 Italian households which looked at internet and social network use, as well as self-reported levels of happiness and self-esteem.
They found that social networks may threaten subjective well-being by eroding a user's trust in the rest of society with exposure to homophobic, racist or misogynistic content, 'The Telegraph' reported.
"In online discussions with unknown others, individuals more easily indulge in aggressive and disrespectful behaviours," researchers said.
"Online networks also are a fertile ground for spreading harmful, offensive, or controversial contents often lying at the verge between free speech and hate speech," they said.
This hateful content can reduce the reader's trust in others, and therefore have a detrimental effect on their own wellbeing.
Social trust has been shown to be one of the strongest predictors of self-reported happiness in previous studies.