Facebook Admits Its Use Can Affect Mental Health... Suggests Using It More

Facebook says “passively consuming” the News Feed will make you feel worse about yourself

Passively scrolling through your Facebook news feed to see who is getting married or enjoying the holiday of a lifetime may make you feel bad, the blog post says. "We want the time people spend on Facebook to encourage meaningful social interactions", they added, quoting CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg.

More specifically, a Carnegie Mellon University study found that people who sent or received more messages, comments, and Timeline posts reported improvements in social support, depression, and loneliness.

The Facebook researchers also cite a Yale/UC San Diego study that revealed that people who clicked on approximately four times as many links as the average person, or who liked twice as many post, reported having worse mental health than average. There is no shortage of people who say that substantial time spent on Facebook simply makes them feel bad.

The company detailed research from the University of MI that found that students who spent 10 minutes only reading Facebook were in a worse mood at the end of the day than those who posted and used the site to talk with friends.

Why it is so is not clear, but researchers believe that reading about others online might lead to negative social comparison - and perhaps even more so than offline, since people's posts are often more curated and flattering.

Facebook's theory, which it backs up with quotes and research from a number of sociologists and psychologists, is that what really makes us feel bad about our social media addiction is spending that time alone.

Similarly, Facebook's founding president Sean Parker told Mike Allen from Axios that the platform "exploits a vulnerability in human psychology" through a "social-validation feedback loop".

What is surprising, though, is why Facebook is suddenly weighing in publicly on the mental health concerns associated with using Facebook.

And just a few days ago, an ex-Facebook executive blasted the company saying it was "destroying how society works". Telling everyone that using social media makes people feel bad is potentially awful for business. Simply broadcasting status updates wasn't enough; people had to interact one-on-one with others in their network.

Palihapitiya on Thursday revised his view, writing in a Facebook post that the service "is a force for good in the world".

The company said, though, that those studies are "not the whole story". Both phenomena, Ginsberg and Burke write, might be the effect of users comparing their own lives to the idealized versions posted to social media by others.

While this is a start, the social media site states it's "always working to expand these communities and find new ways to have a positive impact on people's lives".

But they argued that how you use social media has a big impact on how it will effect your wellbeing. A Facebook representative declined to comment beyond the blog post.

"Facebook's business model depends on monopolizing consumer attention, and content that appeals to fear and anger is the most profitable way to do that", McNamee said in an email on Friday.

The company acknowledged that there was "compelling research" on the worst impulses social media breeds in its users in the long run, going so far as to cite them in their blog.

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