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7 November 2013

Facebook Use Linked to Feelings of Unhappiness

Keywords: happiness, survey, North America, experiment, media, mobile, mobile phone, social media, young adults,

The popularity of social networking sites, such as Facebook, often raises concerns about the quality of young people’s (social) life. A Plos One study proves that these concerns are quite deserved , showing that Facebook use is linked to lowered feeling of happiness and satisfaction with life in young adults.  

Take aways

  • The more young adults use Facebook, the worse they feel (e.g., unhappy, lonely), and the less satisfied they are with their lives. 
  • Interestingly, youngsters who regularly have direct contact with other people (face-to-face or by phone) next to their Facebook use feel even worse. 
  • For educators and caregivers it’s important to realize that the use of social networking sites, such as Facebook, can be associated with lower feelings of happiness and life satisfaction.  

Study information

  • The question?

    Can Facebook use be related to young adults’ feelings of happiness, and life satisfaction? 

  • Who?

    82 young adults (mean age: 19 years old; 35% men; 61% were European American, 28% Asian, 6% African American, and 5% had other racial backgrounds)

  • Where?

    Michigan, US

  • How?

    First, the participants completed a questionnaire that measured their overall satisfaction with life. Then, they were text-messaged 5 times per day (between 10 AM and midnight) over 14 days. Each text-message contained a link to a short online survey, which asked them how they felt at that point. They were also asked how much they used Facebook since they received their last text-message, and how much they interacted with other people (face-to-face or by phone). After two weeks, their overall satisfaction with life was measured again. 

Facts and findings

  • Facebook use was negatively related to young adults’ feelings of happiness, and their satisfaction with life:
    • The more they used Facebook at a certain point when they received a text-message, the worse they felt the next moment they received a text-message. 
    • The more they used Facebook in those two weeks, the less satisfied they were with their life after those two weeks.
  • It’s important to note that young adults who felt bad were no more likely than others to use Facebook.
  • Direct interactions with other people (face-to-face or by phone) were not related to young adults’ overall satisfaction with life, though they were positively related to their moment-to-moment feelings of happiness (i.e., in between their received text-messages). 
  • Interestingly, Facebook users who regularly contacted people face-to-face or by phone experienced stronger feelings of unhappiness. 
  • In contrast, for youngsters who were having hardly any direct contact with other people, Facebook use was not related to feelings of unhappiness at all.