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Does Facebook make you unhappy?

Published: Saturday, Aug. 1 2015 7:58 a.m. MDT

Facebook sometimes asks Facebook sometimes asks "How are you feeling today?" The answer could be "unhappy," according to a study. (Deseret News archive)

A study recently featured on Time.com discussed the influence Facebook has on users’ happiness, with results showing that higher usage often leaves people feeling worse than those who use the site less often.

The study tracked young adults over a two-week period, having them assess how they felt about themselves, as well as how much time they spent on Facebook. Researchers texted participants five times a day in two-hour increments to get updates on how they felt. Results showed those who spent more time on Facebook felt worse.

“My hunch is that there are likely a variety of factors that may be driving this effect,” said lead study author Ethan Kross, in Alexandra Sifferlin’s article, “Two-Faced Facebook: We Like It, But It Doesn’t Make Us Happy.” Kross is a social psychologist at the University of Michigan who published his results in the journal PLOS One.

“Maybe when you’re looking at Facebook you’re engaging in a lot of social comparisons," Kross said. "Maybe when you’re on Facebook you’re not engaging in other kinds of activities that may be good for you, like getting outside, exercising and interacting with people in daily life.”

The filtered lives people display on Facebook and other forms of social media may contribute to viewers comparing their life situations and feeling down on themselves.

“It comes up in sessions all the time,” said Dr. Guy Winch, a New York psychologist and author of "Emotional First Aid," in the Time article. “Patients feel really bad: they went online and liked their friends’ vacation photos, but their friend didn’t like theirs. In the throes of a nasty breakup, their ex wrote something really bad about them and blasted it all over. I hear this literally all the time. People have huge emotional experiences on social media, especially Facebook, and they bring it into sessions.”

Pediatricians are even advised to ask patients about Facebook usage in evaluating their health, according to another Time article, “Pediatricians Should Discuss ‘Facebook Depression’ with Kids.”

The article says, “Experts are worried about ... how childhood has changed now that many kids prefer digital play over the outdoors kind. The shift means that much of children’s social and emotional development is influenced by their activities online; experts suggest it could even lead to 'Facebook depression,' in which some children who may be at risk for social isolation or poor self-esteem and spend a significant amount of time on the social-networking site may become depressed.

"The constant barrage of their peers’ happy status and photo updates and friend connections may present a skewed view of reality that could make at-risk kids feel that they don’t measure up.”

Other studies also tie high Facebook usage to depression.

“We were surprised by how many people have a negative experience from Facebook with envy leaving them feeling lonely, frustrated or angry,” researcher Hanna Krasnova told Reuters as quoted in the Time article “Why Facebook Makes You Feel Bad About Yourself.” ”From our observations some of these people will then leave Facebook or at least reduce their use of the site.”

Some people believe emotions connected to Facebook are the fault of the user.

“FB (Facebook) has its perks and its disadvantages. I can't really say FB is good; at the same time, I can't really latch onto the idea that FB is bad,” commenter allenurp replied to the latter article. “I personally think it's a matter of preference and wholly depends on how the individual himself/herself wants to view it. There's a reason why we like it and sometimes, why we hate it ... I'm only saying people should be decisive, make the right choices and not blame others for their downfall.”

Abby Stevens is a writer for the DeseretNews.com Faith and Family sections. She is a recent graduate of Brigham Young University–Idaho. Contact Abby at astevens@deseretdigital.com.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company