Face-to-face beats Facebook, hands down


You kind of know it in your heart, don’t you. Spending too much time communing with your computer can’t be good for you. But who would have guessed that, even when the communing involves engaging with a large number of like-minded people (and I’ve heard it said that the population of Facebook makes it the third largest ‘country’ in the world), it still isn’t good for you. What about all those friends?

A new study supports the notion that Facebook can have a negative impact on the way you feel – researchers from the University of Michigan published in the journal Plos One that “rather than enhancing well-being… Facebook may undermine it.”

Using the technique of ‘experience sampling’, the authors text-messaged 82 young adult participants five times per day for two weeks to examine how Facebook use influenced two components of subjective wellbeing  – how they felt from moment-to-moment and how satisfied they were with their lives.

What they discovered was that the more participants used Facebook on any given day, the worse they felt next time they were text-messaged, and the more they used Facebook over the course of the whole fourteen days, the more their experience of life satisfaction declined.

One explanation put forward by the authors was that loneliness and/or worry might be causing participants to increase Facebook use, which would suggest that Facebook was not the problem at all, and that negative feelings were driving its use. However, even when they accounted for the loneliness and worry variables within the study design, Facebook use continued to predict declines in subjective wellbeing.

These findings deserve consideration in light of the suggestion that Facebook can be considered an addiction, in much the same way that any substance or behaviour can – the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale (BFAS), developed by Norwegian researchers, testifies to this. As with alcohol, for example, developing a Facebook habit would appear to run counter to improving your psychological wellbeing.

So what are we to make of these findings? As usual, mother knew best, and it’s moderation in everything. We’d do well to keep an eye on how much time we’re devoting to the use of social media at the expense of participating face-to-face in our real life communities. Probably a good place to end a blog post, don’t you think?

Written by Jacqui Hogan