In the last couple of weeks, mainstream media and bloggers alike have picked up on the results of a recent study that links Facebook use to feelings of sadness, worry and loneliness. Are Americans alone with these feelings? Can the findings be generalized for the nearly 1 billion Facebook users outside the United States? Fortunately, we have a few answers.
Conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, the study evaluated Facebook use of 82 people in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Study participants received five text messages per day linking to a survey on how they felt and how much they had used Facebook since the last text message. The results: the more participants used Facebook, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time.
Germany: Is Facebook envy a mental health problem or motivating factor?
Last year, a German study of nearly 600 Facebook users at Humboldt University and the Technical University of Darmstadt found similar results. In the study, twenty percent of respondents felt sadness due to a lack of attention, referring specifically to a lack of likes, comments or shares their posts generated. Another ten percent reported loneliness– sadness due to the lack of face-to-face contact with people they are friends with on Facebook. This is likely similar to feelings experienced when one moves to a new city or experiences a break-up (to unfriend or not to unfriend?).
The most common negative feeling generated when German users logged into Facebook was envy – discontent at the life experiences Facebook “friends” share. Authors divided envy into benign and malicious. Participants categorized as malicious had negative self-esteem effects, and positive envy led to better “learning and motivation, performance and achievement.”
The UK: Agreement on Facebook blues, but don’t disconnect the kids
Internet psychologist Graham Jones provided a British perspective on the Michigan study. ”It confirms what some other studies have found – there is a growing depth of research that suggests Facebook has negative consequences,” he said. However, don’t disconnect the youth from the internet too fast. Sixty percent of UK teenagers who recently took part in a Digital Trends study responded that they would feel lonely without the internet.
Brazil: A sign of “The Tostines Paradox?”
In Brazil, Facebook has overtaken longtime market leader Orkut. When the Michigan study was released, Brazil’s active blog community was quick to allude to the famous “Tostines Paradox.” The Tostines Paradox is based on a famous 1980’s cracker brand slogan that asks: “Do the crackers sell so much because they’re so fresh, or are they so fresh because they sell so much?”
Are we sad because we Facebook, or do we Facebook because we are sad? Either way, the takeaway is this: if you’re feeling envious of the beach vacation your friend just shared or feeling blue because your latest post received no likes, disconnect from digital media and try sharing your stories face-to-face.