View profile

More evidence Facebook makes you feel bad

Revue
 
Eleven months ago, Facebook published what I then called the most extraordinary blog post in its hist
 
November 12 · Issue #245 · View online
The Interface
Eleven months ago, Facebook published what I then called the most extraordinary blog post in its history: an acknowledgement that, in some cases, using social media can make you feel worse about yourself. The post was based on a survey of recent academic research on the platform, which found that certain forms of mindless thumb-scrolling could be alienating.
Facebook’s proposed solution was not to use social media less, necessarily, but rather to use it differently. What followed over the next year was a series of steps designed to get people to use Facebook more “actively” — increasing the number of comments, while decreasing number of stories and videos from professional publishers in the News Feed.
Little follow-up research on the subject has been published to date. But over the weekend I read a study with something new to say on the matter: “No more FOMO: Limiting social media decreases loneliness and depression.” It’s to be published in the December edition of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. Science Daily tells us how it worked:
Each of 143 participants completed a survey to determine mood and well-being at the study’s start, plus shared shots of their iPhone battery screens to offer a week’s worth of baseline social-media data. Participants were then randomly assigned to a control group, which had users maintain their typical social-media behavior, or an experimental group that limited time on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram to 10 minutes per platform per day.
For the next three weeks, participants shared iPhone battery screenshots to give the researchers weekly tallies for each individual. With those data in hand, Hunt then looked at seven outcome measures including fear of missing out, anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
Participants who reduced their time on social sites saw a statistically significant decrease in depression and loneliness, according to the study. The control group did not report an improvement.
The study’s authors present this as a milestone. Their study concludes:
The results from our experiment strongly suggest that limiting social media usage does have a direct and positive impact on subjective well-being over time, especially with respect to decreasing loneliness and depression. That is, ours is the first study to establish a clear causal link between decreasing social media use, and improvements in loneliness and depression. It is ironic, but perhaps not surprising, that reducing social media, which promised to help us connect with others, actually helps people feel less lonely and depressed. 
The study’s lead author, psychologist Melissa G. Hunt, told Science Daily that she did not recommend that people stop using social media. But limits can be helpful, she said.
Facebook didn’t respond to my request for comment. On the subject of time spent in its apps, the company has arguably already capitulated. In response to the Time Well Spent movement, the company voluntarily introduced in-app screen time limits earlier this year. (Well, it announced those limits, anyway. They still haven’t shipped for reasons no one will tell me.) Apple and Google, who control Facebook’s key distribution channels, shipped screen time management features of their own.
While the study finds evidence that social media usage can make us depressed, it doesn’t offer any thoughts on why. Hunt has offered some theories in interviews, primarily the idea that seeing other people’s happiness can create negative comparisons with our own experiences. But if we are to better understand how to manage our relationship with social networks, we need to understand those mechanics much better. To know that social media often makes us feel lonely now seems like a given. Knowing why feels like an important next step.

Democracy
Trump’s Latest Claims About Voter Fraud Have Zero Basis In Reality
More than 50 nations, but not U.S., sign onto cybersecurity pact
Russian Hackers Largely Skipped the Midterms, and No One Really Knows Why
Facebook's Secret Weapon for Fighting Election Interference: The Government
YouTube CEO calls EU’s proposed copyright regulation financially impossible
Facebook will let French regulators study its efforts to fight hate speech
Philippines Says It Will Charge Veteran Journalist Critical of Duterte
Why Did Facebook Fire a Top Executive? Hint: It Had Something to Do With Trump
Elsewhere
Facebook went down Monday, sending users rushing to Twitter
The exec who built Snapchat Discover is leaving the company
Snap’s former No. 2 executive Imran Khan is building a shopping startup
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Gets Reputation Hit After Data Blunders
Brooklyn students hold walkout in protest of Facebook-designed online program
“I Hope People Call Me Insane”: Thousand Oaks Shooter Posted To Instagram During The Massacre
I Get Paid $6,000 a Day to Write Inspirational Quotes for Instagram. Here's How I Perfected This Dream Job
Twitter cuts suspect users from follower counts again, blames bug
YouTube Videos Keep Getting Longer to Drive Ad Revenue
Social Media’s Re-engineering Effect, From Myanmar to Germany
Launches
LinkedIn begins testing events tool in New York and San Francisco
YouTube VR launches today for the Oculus Go
Facebook Portal needs more. At least it just added YouTube
Takes
Let the People Vote
And finally ...
Dorsey says typo editing on Twitter is achievable, but the company 'can't just rush it out'
Talk to me
Send me tips, comments, questions, and your suggested optimal daily social media usage: casey@theverge.com.
Did you enjoy this issue?
If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here
Powered by Revue