Facebook use predicts declines in happiness, new study finds

August 14, 2013, University of Michigan

Facebook helps people feel connected, but it doesn't necessarily make them happier, a new study shows. Facebook use actually predicts declines in a user's well-being, according to a University of Michigan study that is the first known published research examining Facebook influence on happiness and satisfaction.

The study about the use of Facebook, a free , appears online in PLOS ONE.

"On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection," said U-M Ethan Kross, lead author of the article and a faculty associate at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR)."But rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result – it undermines it."

"This is a result of critical importance because it goes to the very heart of the influence that social networks may have on people's lives," said U-M John Jonides, another author of the paper.

For the study, the researchers recruited 82 , a core Facebook user demographic. All of them had and Facebook accounts. They used experience-sampling—one of the most reliable techniques for measuring how people think, feel, and behave moment-to-moment in their daily lives—to assess their subjective well-being by texting them at random times five times a day for two weeks.

Each text message contained a link to an online survey with five questions:

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 study found that the more people used Facebook during one time period, the worse they subsequently felt. The authors also asked people to rate their level of life satisfaction at the start and end of the study. They found that the more participants used Facebook over the two-week study period, the more their levels declined over time.

Importantly, the researchers found no evidence that interacting directly with other people via phone or face-to-face negatively influenced well-being. Instead, they found that direct interactions with other people led people to feel better over time.

They also found no evidence for two alternative possible explanations for the finding that Facebook undermines happiness. People were not more likely to use Facebook when they felt bad. In addition, although people were more likely to use Facebook when they were lonely, loneliness and Facebook use both independently predicted how happy participants subsequently felt. "Thus, it was not the case that Facebook use served as a proxy for feeling bad or lonely," Kross said.

"This is the advantage of studying Facebook use and well-being as dynamic processes that unfold over time", said emotion researcher Philippe Verduyn, another co-author of the article and post-doctoral fellow of the Research Foundation - Flanders (Belgium). "It allows us to draw inferences about the likely causal sequence of Facebook use and well-being."

The researchers hope to conduct additional research with participants from a variety of age groups to examine the generalizability of these results and the psychological mechanisms that underlie them.

Explore further: Facebook lets users showcase posts on other websites

More information: Paper: dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0069841

Related Stories

Alcohol use, anxiety predict Facebook use by college students

April 10, 2013

With nearly one billion users worldwide, Facebook has become a daily activity for hundreds of millions of people. Because so many people engage with the website daily, researchers are interested in how emotionally involved ...

Facebook says 'simple' app used by 100 million

July 22, 2013

US social network giant Facebook said Monday it has surpassed 100 million users a month using an application designed for "simple" mobile phones widely used in developing nations.

Excessive Facebook use can damage relationships, study finds

June 6, 2013

Facebook and other social networking web sites have revolutionized the way people create and maintain relationships. However, new research shows that Facebook use could actually be damaging to users' romantic relationships. ...

Zynga.com to show Facebook ads

June 22, 2012

(AP) — Zynga is starting to show ads from Facebook on Zynga.com, its stand-alone website that lets people play its online games away from Facebook.

Recommended for you


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (5) Aug 14, 2013
I notice that serendipity is an under-appreciated factor in social exchange. I suspect that there is a quantum wavefunction that allows beings to entangle and become an irreducible whole. That would imply simultaneity, which doesn't occur on blogs and other non-realtime media. A critical number of simultaneous interactions can drive systems to entangle which might be the basis of social exaltation. I notice for example that when my phone rings two or three people call me simultaneously, and those are the exchanges that persevere. The lone stragglers usually fade
2 / 5 (2) Aug 14, 2013
Only the answers of those that bothered to respond to an SMS survey were polled? Doesn't sound like a good sample...
not rated yet Aug 14, 2013
Proves that facebook demonstrates how stupid and childish your friends really are. That is a depressing realization.
not rated yet Aug 15, 2013
I suspect that there is a quantum wavefunction that allows beings to entangle and become an irreducible whole.

Quantum pseudoscience: the BS that collapses as soon as you observe it!
2 / 5 (2) Aug 15, 2013
Some peculiar aspect of Facebook or some shared attribute of social network sites in general?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.