Facebook Use May Undermine Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults

A new study by a team of University of Michigan researchers suggests that while Facebook may fulfill the need for connection, it may also undermine subjective well-being in the process.  The goal of the study was to examine how interacting with Facebook influences how people feel (“affective” well-being) and how satisfied they are with their lives (“cognitive” well-being)--the two components of subjective well-being.  Participants completed a set of questionnaires (Satisfaction with Life questionnaire (SWLS), Beck Depression Inventory, Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale,  Social Provision Scale, and Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale) at the beginning and again at the end of the study period, and received text messages five times a day for 14 days.  The text messages occurred at random times during the day and contained a link to an online, 5-question survey: (1) How do you feel right now? (2) How worried are you right now? (3) How lonely do you feel right now? (4) How much have you used Facebook since the last time we asked? (5) How much have you interacted with other people “directly” since the last time we asked?

The results show that, unlike direct social contact, Facebook use is associated with a decline in both affective and cognitive well-being.  The precise mechanisms that underlie this relationship are unknown, but the researchers speculate that online social networking may "trigger damaging social comparisons.  [This] is particularly interesting in light of the significant interaction we observed between direct social contact and Facebook use in this study—i.e., the more people interacted with other people directly, the more strongly Facebook use predicted declines in their affective well-being. If harmful social comparisons explain how Facebook use predicts declines in affective well-being, it is possible that interacting with other people directly either enhances the frequency of such comparisons or magnifies their emotional impact."




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Frederique Laubepin

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