Facebook admits social media is bad for you

Thumbs down: The average internet user spends 135 minutes per day on social media.

Is the answer to social media’s problems… more social media? Facebook has admitted that “passively” using its website may not be good for you. Its answer? Just use it a little differently.

“Do people connect in meaningful ways online? Or are they simply consuming trivial updates… at the expense of time with loved ones?”

These questions may sound familiar. But, published in a blog post by the world’s biggest social network last week, they made headlines around the world.

In the post, Facebook publicly acknowledged for the first time ever that its product might be bad for people’s mental health.

It considered the evidence that Facebook users who read the site more often also report worse mental health. It also admitted that technology has been linked with an “increase in teen depression”.

However, Facebook went on to argue that this is not the whole picture. The worst effects occur when people use the site “passively”, it said. A group of students told to read Facebook for ten minutes ended up feeling worse by the end of the day. But a group who were told to talk to people fared much better.

“It really comes down to how you use the technology,” Facebook insisted. Chatting to friends, or even looking back at your own posts, can be good for you.

Can using Facebook really make you happier?

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Yes, say some. It may sound silly to advise people who are depressed by social media to use it more often. But there are ways in which it can make you happy. Instead of giving into jealousy and stalking a frenemy, try reaching out to someone you love or revisiting some happy memories. In the end, happiness is all about your own attitude.

Rubbish, argue others. Of course Facebook would say that; it would never advise its customers to stop using its product. But social media is designed to make you addicted to it; it cannot be its own cure. If technology makes you feel low, there is only one solution: log off, go outside, and reconnect with the real world.

You Decide

  1. Does looking at social media generally make you feel better or worse?

Activities

  1. Create a poster which advises people on how social media can have an impact on their mental health.

Some People Say...

“What makes social media work is actually having something to say.”

Steven Levitt

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Facebook has announced that it is investing $1 million into researching the effects of social media on young people. It also announced new features to improve its users’ wellbeing by allowing them to remove certain people’s content from their newsfeed.
What do we not know?
How far Facebook can really influence your mental health, or whether the changes will really improve things.

Word Watch

World’s biggest
Facebook has 2.07 billion active monthly users — over a quarter of the world’s population.
More often
According to a study by University of California San Diego and Yale, those who liked twice as many posts, or clicked on four times as many links as the average user, also had worse mental health than average.
Your own
According to a study at Cornell, Facebook users look at their own profile to satisfy their “need for self-worth and self-integrity”.