Science Explains How Facebook Makes You Sad
And why you keep using it anyway.
Posted Mar 07, 2016
More than one billion people log into Facebook every day. Whether their intention is to post a duck face selfie, or they want to read the headlines from their favorite news outlet, Facebook remains the world's most popular social networking site.
Of course, it would seem logical to assume that people use Facebook because it somehow enhances their lives. But oddly, research suggests the opposite. Studies show Facebook use is associated with lower life satisfaction.
Wasting Time on Facebook Will Make You Sad
According to a 2014 study published in Computers in Human Behavior, most people aren't using social media to be social. Only about 9 percent of Facebook's users' activities involve communicating with others.
Instead, most users consume random pieces of content. And researchers found that passively consuming information isn't fulfilling or satisfying.
Study participants experienced a sharp decline in their moods after scrolling through Facebook. Interestingly, they didn't experience the same emotional decline when they surfed the internet. The toll on mental health was unique to Facebook.
Through a series of studies, researchers concluded that by the time people log out of Facebook, they feel like they've wasted their time. Their remorse over being unproductive causes them to feel sad.
Envying Your Friends on Facebook Leads to Depression
Feeling sad after you log out isn't the only way Facebook takes a toll on your mental health. A study that will be published in the June 2016 issue of Current Opinion in Psychology found that envying your friends on Facebook leads to depression.
Scrolling through happy status updates, exciting vacation photos, and beautiful family moments led participants to compare their lives with those of their Facebook friends.
Those social comparisons led people to assume their Facebook friends had better lives. And those feelings of envy increased their chances of developing depression.
Why You Keep Using Facebook Anyway
Despite the emotional toll, more than 70 percent of users check Facebook daily. So why on earth do people keep coming back for more if Facebook causes them to be sad?
Researchers say it stems from a psychological term called affective forecasting. Studies confirm that people predict Facebook is going to make them feel better.
They assume--albeit incorrectly--that 20 minutes of Facebook activity will boost their mood. They don't recognize that it's actually robbing them of joy.
So the cycle continues. Someone assumes Facebook will give a momentary break from stress or a quick opportunity to check in with friends.
But ultimately, that individual isn't likely to communicate with friends, nor is the Facebook visit likely to boost his or her mood. Yet there's a good chance the person will fail to recognize the personal toll being taken, and he or she will keep going back for more.
Prevent Facebook From Taking a Toll on Your Mood
The good news is, simply being aware that Facebook can harm your emotional well-being can help you keep a watchful eye on your social media activity.
Limit your mindless scrolling, and try to prevent Facebook from standing in the way of your productivity--at least most days. Becoming more mindful of your passive Facebook use will reduce the amount of time you waste, which in turn can help you feel better.
Second, don't make social comparisons. Most people share the highlights of their lives on Facebook. They don't announce their trials, problems, or insecurities.
Compare yourself only with the person you were yesterday. Try to grow better and mentally stronger, without becoming envious of what your Facebook friends share on social media.
Want to learn how to give up the bad habits that hold you back? Pick up a copy of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do.
Interested in learning how to build mental strength? Sign up for my eCourse Mental Strength: Mastering the 3 Core Factors.
This article first appeared on Inc.