Regular Facebook use could contribute to depressive symptoms, according to the results of one recent study.
Researchers conducted a two-part investigation into the impact of Facebook on user’s psychological health and found a positive association between time spent on Facebook and depressive symptoms among both males and females. In other words, the more time persons spent on Facebook the more depressive symptoms they experienced.
The U.S. based researchers also examined how social comparison (upward, downward and non-directional) mediates the relationship between time on Facebook and depressive symptoms. Upward social comparison is when we compare ourselves to others who we think are better off than us, while downward social comparison involves comparing ourselves to persons we think are worse off than us. We often feel better about ourselves after making downward social comparisons, while upward social comparisons tend to make us feel bad.
All three types of social comparison were found to be mediators of the relationship between time on Facebook and depressive symptoms. As the researchers explained ” spending a greater amount of time on Facebook on a daily basis … allow participants greater opportunity to spontaneously socially compare themselves to their peers, which in turn is associated with an increase in daily depressive symptoms.”
Since previous studies have established that Facebook users tend to share only positive news about themselves while minimizing their daily struggles, the researchers reasoned that “frequently viewing these portrayals may intensify other people’s negative cognitions behind the scenes,” thus contributing to depressive symptoms.
This view was supported by the fact that time on Facebook was negatively associated with making downward comparisons but positively associated with upward comparisons. That is, on days when individuals spent more time on Facebook, they tended to make less self-enhancing social comparisons and more self-deprecating ones.
The researchers concluded that a major contribution of their research is that it “provides
evidence that computer-mediated interactions on Facebook may indeed negatively impact users’ psychological health.
Steers, M. N., Wickham, R. E., Acitelli, L. K. (2014). Seeing everyone else’s highlight reels: How
Facebook usage is linked to depressive symptoms. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 33(8), 701-731.
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