Monday, 7 December 2015

The Truth About the Negative Impacts of Facebook Use

When sitting in class, at work or even on the city bus you notice many people scrolling through social media, like Facebook, on their electronic devices. Online social networks have become a primary source for connecting with friends and family, even though just a decade ago emails and phones were often used. 

Now you may be wondering what the impacts of social media use, like Facebook, are. An extent of research has shown that Facebook use is related to how people feel and their overall satisfaction with life. But is this relationship related to how people are using Facebook? Recent findings have shown that it is.

Verduyn et al. (2015) examined the difference between active and passive Facebook use on emotional well-being. Active Facebook use includes direct exchanges between other users in the form of commenting or liking photos, posting pictures, writing status updates, or sending messages. Passive Facebook use includes taking in information without direct exchanges between other users in the form of viewing comments or photos and scrolling/browsing through news feeds. I'm sure most of us are guilty of spending most of our time using Facebook passively. 
To investigate the relationship between passive Facebook use and emotional well-being, two studies were performed. In the first study, 84 undergraduate students were randomly assigned to use Facebook actively or passively for 10 minutes. They rated their feelings before and after the session. During the second study, an online survey was sent to 89 participants via text message five times a day for six days. The surveys consisted of questions on their feelings, degree of envy, amount of active and passive Facebook usage, direct interactions, and non-Facebook social network usage.

It is reassuring to note that the most frequent type of social interaction was direct interaction with other people. But unfortunately, Facebook was passively used more than actively used, which is shown to be associated with harming a person’s well-being. Passive Facebook usage predicted a decrease in how good people felt over time in the lab and in daily life whereas active Facebook usage did not. In fact, when people engaged in passive Facebook usage “a lot” they felt 5% worse than when they did not use Facebook passively at all. Only passive Facebook use and direct social interactions were significantly related to changes in emotional well-being; with passive Facebook use predicting decreases in emotional well-being and direct social interactions predicting increases in emotional well-being.
People tend to portray themselves in an overly positive way on social media outlets like Facebook. They communicate positive life events and rarely post negative ones as was shown in this study when 52% of participants indicated they shared good things online but only 7% indicated they shared bad things online. In turn, this can elicit envy, which is an emotion associated with lower well-being. Thus, passive Facebook usage predicted envy and envy predicted declines in emotional well-being.

You may be wondering why people continue to passively use Facebook even though it is associated with negatively impacting their emotional well-being. This could be because of the addictive properties associated with Facebook, the ability to connect with friends and family or maybe even because they are unaware of the negative impacts. Overall, actively using Facebook is not related to emotional well-being and therefore it is not necessary to quit using Facebook altogether, just monitor HOW you use it. With this being said, you may want to consider reducing the time you spend using Facebook to reduce your chances of becoming addicted to it. Most importantly, when using Facebook, make sure you are actively using it by posting on other members walls, making status updates, and commenting or liking photos more than you are passively browsing through it. 


Verduyn, P., Lee, D. S., Park, J., Shablack, H., Orvell, A., Bayer, J., . . . Kross, E. (2015). Passive facebook usage undermines affective well-being: Experimental and longitudinal evidence. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 144(2), 480.

-Janelle Steckley

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