November 29, 2012
Two separate studies have emerged pointing to the conclusion that for all its popularity, Facebook is actually making people unhappy.
The first study, conducted by researchers from New Zealand’s University of Canterbury, sought to determine how people felt about the various activities that they spent time on during the day. Researcher Carsten Grimm used a technique known as “experience sampling,” sending text messages to people to ask what they were doing and how they ranked the activity in terms of pleasure, engagement, meaningfulness and happiness.
“I texted people three times a day over a week and the response rate was really high,” Grimm said. “People replied to on average 97 percent of all text-messages, and texts were sent at random times, so there is a really rich sample of everyday life to look at.”
Spending time on Facebook ranked among the 10 worst activities in terms of unpleasantness and lack of engagement. It was ranked as the least meaningful activity and the one that made people the second-most unhappy, surpassed only by recovering from illness.
Texting, e-mailing and computer tasks also scored poorly in terms of pleasure and happiness.
Although the study did not determine why people felt the way they did about Facebook, prior studies have indicated that many Facebook users become depressed because they view their friends’ lives as happier than their own. This may be a side effect of the fact that Facebook users are more likely to post about their happy experiences than their unhappy ones.
More friends = More stress
Another study, conducted by researchers from the University of Edinburgh Business School, found that the more social circles people have represented among their Facebook friends, the more stressful they find Facebook to use.
The researchers surveyed more than 300 people about their Facebook usage. The participants were mostly students and had an average age of 21. The average participant had Facebook friends from seven different social circles, the study found, including offline friends, siblings, extended family, colleagues and friends of friends. Being “friends” with someone’s own parents or employers produced the greatest increase in stress.
“Facebook used to be like a great party for all your friends where you can dance, drink and flirt,” study author Ben Marder said. “But now with your Mum, Dad and boss there the party becomes an anxious event full of potential social landmines.”
55 percent of parents now monitor their children’s Facebook pages, and more than half of all employers report having denied people jobs due to the content of their Facebook pages.
And it’s not just worries about what to post or delete that produce stress, Marder said. Many Facebook users now “regulate their offline behavior” by not engaging in certain behaviors around cameras, for fear that they will be portrayed negatively on Facebook.
Although Facebook’s privacy settings allow users to restrict who views their posts, only one-third of users take advantage of this feature, the study found.
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This article was posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 6:30 am