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Culture Beat / September 18, 2019

Warning: Facebook Health Hazard

Research finds that too much time on Facebook leads to deteriorating physical and mental health.

A recently published study conducted by researchers from UC San Diego and Yale monitored the Facebook usage of 5,208 adults over a two-year period and found that the subjects’ physical and mental health decreased over that time. The researchers explain, “Overall, our results showed that, while real-world social networks were positively associated with overall well-being, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being. These results were particularly strong for mental health; most measures of Facebook use in one year predicted a decrease in mental health in a later year. We found consistently that both liking others’ content and clicking links significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction.”

What is it about social media and Facebook in particular that is so damaging to a user’s mental health? Well, according to the study, “exposure to the carefully curated images from others’ lives leads to negative self-comparison.” In other words, Facebook makes the lives of almost everyone else appear to be significantly better than one’s own.

The researchers note, “While many platforms expose the user to the sort of polished profiles of others that can lead to negative self-comparison, the issue of quantity of usage will be an issue for any social media platform. While screen time in general can be problematic, the tricky thing about social media is that while we are using it, we get the impression that we are engaging in meaningful social interaction. Our results suggest that the nature and quality of this sort of connection is no substitute for the real world interaction we need for a healthy life.”

The issue, ironically, is that too much time spent on Facebook creates greater isolation and fewer actual connections with other real-life individuals. As a result, people suffer.

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