Scientists Show using Facebook Is a Downer

Posted on October 2, 2013

Humans like being around other humans. We are extraordinarily social animals. In fact, we are so social, that simply interacting with other people has been shown to be use similar brain areas as those involved with the processing of very basic rewards such as food, suggesting that interacting with people tends to make us feel good.

However, it doesn’t take much reflection to notice that the way people interact with each other has radically changed in recent years. Much of our contact happens not face-to-face, but rather while staring at screen-based digital representations of each other, with Facebook being the most prominent example. This raises a very fundamental question – how does online interaction with other people differ from interacting with people in person?

So, how does online interaction make us feel? The researchers attempted to answer this question by examining the data in two different ways. First, they looked at how the participant’s moment-to-moment feelings, or affect, changed between each text message. The data showed that as participants reported using Facebook more often in between any two texts, the more their affect tended to change for the negative. In other words, across the two weeks, increased Facebook use was associated with declines in affect. Interestingly, this relationship disappeared when participants had very little direct social contact, and was much stronger when they had quite a lot of social contact.

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Source material from Scientitifc American


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