Since gaining more than one billion users in 2012, Facebook has become the leading social network on the Internet. Many consider Facebook a suitable method for maintaining friendships. But there are few who see Facebook as a detriment to forming friendships and social interaction. That argument just got a big boost in the form of surprising new research that reveals excessive Facebook use is detrimental to a person's overal well-being.
Researchers at the University of Michigan theorize that excessive Facebook users are unsatisfied with life and exhibit negative emotions like depression or envy. Orchestrated by Dr. Ethan Kross and Dr. Philippe Verduyn, researchers recruited 82 Facebook users and monitored their Facebook activity for two weeks. First, they sent the participants five text messages daily between 10 a.m. and midnight containing questionnaires. The questionnaires asked about their emotional states, amount of Facebook usage, and level of social interaction directly or by phone. Upon further examination, participants exhibited significant levels of depression, loneliness, and misery. Conversely, researchers placed participants in scenarios where direct contact was the only method of communication and saw greater signs of happiness and self-esteem. Thus, social media is excellent for advertising yourself and communicating with others over long distances, but it should not be confused as a replacement for friendships or human contact because emotions and comfort increase our empathy and understanding of others.
Kross, Verduyn and other researchers affirm that this phenomenon emerges from social isolation or boredom, explain their theory. "Colloquially, this theory is known as FOMO — Fear Of Missing Out — a side effect of seeing friends and family sitting on beaches or having fun at parties while you are on a computer," said BBC News. This results in displays of jealousy or depression, desiring fun or a change in their life. Facebook cannot fulfill the desire for human interaction or true friendship. Users should be reminded that virtual life is an unhealthy addiction.
Researchers also had participants interact with volunteers for the experiment and witnessed different results. "In contrast, there was a positive association between the amount of direct social contact a volunteer had and how positive he felt," said the Economist. "In other words, the more volunteers socialized in the real world, the more positive they reported feeling the next time they filled in the questionnaire." This indicates that a person retains happiness and high self-esteem through companionship or true friendship instead of solely relying on Facebook interaction.
A previous experiment was conducted by researchers at two universities in Germany, Humboldt University and Darmstadt's Technical University. The researchers recruited 584 Facebook users, mostly in their 20s, and examined their behavior and emotional states. Results showed that envy was the recurring emotion as the participants compared themselves to other Facebook users who seem to have more exciting lives than them. These participants have been left with an unyielding desire for excitement or an envious outlook of their peers. This unique brand of envy and depression casts Facebook in a horrible light. Facebook and other social networks are valuable commodities that provide entertainment and certain benefits to users, but can cause users to obsess over trivial matters which make them petty and antisocial.
Social media is for recreational and professional purposes, not a replacement for human interaction.