Despite all the virtual socialising and "liking" involved, using Facebook is actually associated with a decline in happiness, according to a small new study.
"On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection," lead author Ethan Kross, a social psychologist at the University of Michigan, said.
"But rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result – it undermines it," Kross said.
And, added study co-author John Jonides, "This is a result of critical importance because it goes to the very heart of the influence that social networks may have on people's lives." Jonides is a cognitive neuroscientist at the university.
How the study was done
The study of 82 young adult Facebook users found that the more they used Facebook over a given time, the more their happiness and life satisfaction levels declined. In contrast, face-to-face interactions with others led participants to feel better over time.
The researchers did not find any evidence to support two possible explanations for their finding that Facebook undermines happiness. People were not more likely to use Facebook when they felt bad. And while people were more likely to use Facebook when they were lonely, loneliness and Facebook use both independently predicted subsequent levels of happiness.
"Thus, it was not the case that Facebook use served as a proxy for feeling bad or lonely," Kross said.
The study was published online on 14 August in the journal PLoS One.
The Nemours Foundation has more about understanding emotions.