Facebook Usage Effects on Happiness and Other Perspectives
Once again the spotlight turns towards the social media giant, Facebook. This time, according to a University of Michigan study, we are alerted to the fact that the more people use Facebook during one time period, the worse they subsequently feel. So is the issue with Facebook, social media sites generally, or some other factor?
It’s probably useful to put social media site usage, and Facebook in particular, into perspective. Social media is now the number one activity for online time and Facebook tops the list of most-visited sites. According to a report by Nielsen, “In the U.S. alone, total minutes spent on social networking sites has increased 83 percent year-over-year. In fact, total minutes spent on Facebook increased nearly 700 percent year-over-year, growing from 1.7 billion minutes in April 2008 to 13.9 billion in April 2009, making it the No. 1 social networking site for the month. And, in a Business Horizons article, the authors mention over 152 million unique personal computer visits to Facebook recorded during 2012.
With such high use it stands to reason that Facebook should become the focus of attention as to its effects, and here the messages start to become blurry. For every research pointing out the virtues of social media use, there’s another cautioning us as to its potentially damaging effects. In 2009, for example, Christakis and Moreno made the case that social media addiction could be included in DSM-V as a recognized medical condition. Most of the millions of Facebook users are not addicted so where does the Michigan study stand with regard to its findings?
I suppose one notable difference is the fact that, in my view at least, the issues aren’t polarized. We don’t find conclusions stating Facebook causes or does not cause depression, or that its use increases self-esteem. Instead, we find a conclusion that states while Facebook use helps people feel connected, it doesn’t make them any happier.
Why should it? Social connectedness is assumed to be a good thing but that rather depends on the nature of interactions and the closeness or otherwise of the people being contacted. One of the interesting things about this study is that Facebook use is viewed as a dynamic process. The more of our life is spent on Facebook the less satisfaction we appear to experience. Maybe this is because Facebook represents a virtual rather than a real existence. There is a superficiality about ‘liking’ something you’ve alighted on for no more than a few seconds. Equally, the number of personal tragedies and upsets that appear with such alarming regularity from certain people seem questionable and may, in turn, elicit less than genuine sympathy. Facebook represents a microcosm of society in that it has its place, but it is not an intimate form of communication and must sometimes leave its users wondering how much is too much?
And while we mull over that particular question there’s always another research we can to turn to. The Free University of Berlin, for example, have concluded the most avid Facebook users are people who crave social approval – and they have the brain scans to prove it! Facebook looks likely to remain in our faces for quite some time yet.
Christakis, D. A., & Moreno M. A. Trapped in the Net: Will Internet Addiction Become a 21st-Century Epidemic?Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009;163(10):959-960. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2009.162.
“Time spent on Facebook up 700 percent but MySpace.com still tops for video according to Nielsen. Neilsen.com June 2, 2009