You’ve probably read the verdict before: using Facebook makes you feel bad about yourself.
The common wisdom goes: if you keep looking at your friends’ highlight reels, you’ll grow envious of their lives and feel depressed about your own.
But that’s not the whole story. Studies aren’t exactly conclusive on whether Facebook is really bad for you. Some show that Facebook increases the feeling of being connected with friends, while others link Facebook to depressive thoughts.
So which is correct? A group of psychologists think they may be teased out there answer.
The key lies in how you use Facebook. In an recent analysis published by NPR, author Jon Brooks notes that psychologists think there are two main ways people use Facebook: active usage and passive usage.
Active usage is when you actively engage with things on the network. This includes posting a new status, liking and commenting on friends’ photos, and sharing articles and links.
Passive usage is when you scroll through your feed without much interactions. Think the late night “let me just check FB really quick” sessions when you lay in bed, staring at a bright screen that radiates in your face against the black backdrop of your dim room, while mentally “ugh-ing” through a series of gorgeous travel and food photos.
It’s not hard to imagine why the two types of usage produce different emotional results. But now scientists have quantitative proof – passive Facebook usage is detrimental to your mental health.
In a experiment done by several researchers at the University of Michigan, study participants were asked to use Facebook either actively or passively for a short period of time (only about 10 minutes). At the end of the day, the researchers surveyed everyone’s mood.
The group that used Facebook passively reported being 9% less happy, while the active group felt slightly happier.
It’s pretty shocking that just 10 minutes of passive usage can cause that big of a drop in happiness.
“I’ve had friends call me and say, ‘Your life looks so amazing,” said Randi Zuckerberg. “And I tell them, ‘I’m a marketer. I’m only posting the moments that are amazing.'”
The study even included an interesting observation from Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. “I’ve had friends call me and say, ‘Your life looks so amazing,” said Randi Zuckerberg. “And I tell them, ‘I’m a marketer. I’m only posting the moments that are amazing.'”
Your friends’ lives may not be as glamorous as Randi Zuckerberg’s, but it’s the same idea. Not many people like to post depressing or bad moments in their lives, giving the illusion that everyone’s live is perfect. Seeing is believing.
So how you can get out of the trap? Follow what the study implies. If you’re used to sitting in bed and aimlessly consuming posts, consider engaging more with your feed.
Friend’s birthday? Follow everyone else in wishing a happy birthday. See a cool travel photo? Throw a like followed by a “looks so awesome!!” Just ran a 10k? Snap a sweaty selfie and post it with a stupid caption like “mileage with smileage.” All in good humor.
By using Facebook more actively, you will not only help support your friends, you will help yourself to a better mood.