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Last Updated on August 29, 2016

Facebook may allow you to feel connected, but does it make you feel joyful? No, based on a tiny new study in the University of Michigan published now in PLOS One. Actually, spending time on the mega popular social networking platform might be bringing down you.

In a two-week study of 82 young adults, researchers at the University of Michigan Emotion and Self-Control Laboratory used “experience sampling” to analyze the subjects’ level of happiness and life satisfaction. Results indicated “negative shifts on both these variables over time” said the report. The more Facebook was used by a man, they discovered, the greater the fall in their sense of happiness.

While researchers clearly see a happiness trouble with Facebook use, they don’t just know why.

“Maybe it is dangerous social comparisons or lack of direct interactions with others, but that’s really all speculation,” said the study’s lead author, social shrink Ethan Kross, PhD, an Associate Professor in the Psychology Department at UM as well as the Director of the Emotion and Self Control Lab.

Although Kross’ study is billed as the primary one to look particularly at life and happiness satisfaction as they connect to Facebook, psychologists and therapists we spoke with weren’t surprised — at all – by the results. They see signs that patients are afflicted by negative social interactions on Facebook, because many more people are coming to treatment with Facebook-associated challenges that are mental.

Clinical psychologist Suzana Flores. PhD, a professional on author of a forthcoming book concerning the effects of Facebook, and the mental effects of the latest social networking to be titled Am I My Profile Pic?, validates the connection. “In my very own practice, I hear about Facebook-related problems at least once a day,” Dr. Flores said.

“Many of my clients present with symptoms related to anxiety and depression that appears directly linked to their Facebook interactions,” she added. “I have discovered that the more time people spend on Facebook and other social media, the less happy they feel, and yet because they’ve become dependent on this sort of interaction, they find it unbelievably difficult to log off or reduce the time they spend on Facebook.”

Keeping Up With All the Facebook Joneses

Facebook-related emotional problems vary from passive-aggressive remarks from buddies or family to a deficiency of engagement, opinions, or “enjoys.” One of the largest sources of unhappiness for users could function as endless feed of “news” from showoff Facebook friends. Many people are just overwhelmed by means of a feed full of happy, cheerful people touting their successes.

“There’s a bogus sense of ‘eternal ecstasy’ getting people down,” said Pandora MacLean-Hoover, LICSW, a clinical social worker in private practice in Cambridge and Newburyport, Mass. “They compare their lives to the graphic ones of the Facebook friends, and feel ‘less than,’ and sometimes depressed.”

John Duffy, PsyD, a clinical psychologist, author of The Accessible Parent, plus a regular contributor to the Steve Harvey Show, works mainly with young people and said he regularly sees the first happiness and delight about the links they have made on Facebook decline when children feel they must stay informed about peers in terms of succeeding, friends, and even booking.

“People who buy into the culture of Facebook, as many young folks do, become preoccupied with what’s missing for them there: not enough buddies, not enough opinions, and not enough likes,” Dr. Duffy said. “Facebook fast becomes less about abundance than it does about deficiency. Many individuals take the lack quite seriously.”

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Social media strategist and blogger Theodora Blanchfield considers that exposing yourself to folks from numerous parts of our life is hard on self esteem. “Most folks are posting their finest moments and portraying their finest selves on Facebook,” she said. “We’re all curating the image of us that others see. It’s inescapable that you have a Facebook friend who is got that all figured out, if you have some insecurity about where you stand in life. It is vital that people remember which you’re simply seeing that man’s highlight reel, not their behind the scenes.”

While Facebook may allow users to stay in contact with friends and family who reside in other areas, California-based clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, PhD, considers it’s not frequently used in that way. “It foments a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality plus a persistent state of envy for a few,” she said. “And those that are a bit more exposed may feel they are somehow ‘less’ or missing out – not to mention the myriad distress feelings that happen when images of an event are posted and also you understand you weren’t invited.

‘Artificial Sweetener’: The Delusion of Relationships

One of the problems is that some users spend vast amounts of time on Facebook. “They have started to substitute real life interactions for our Facebook interactions,” said Flores. “Emotionally, we want real life interactions as a way to feel fulfilled. The most entertaining Facebook interactions can substitute for face to face interactions.

“Kross stated the issues his team looked at found that “interacting with other folks directly actually led them to feel much better over time. Direct social interactions didn’t, nevertheless, influence life satisfaction.” Mental health professionals concur actual contact trumps social media, and they believe it really does help people remain more happy in the future, and Facebook cannot be a surrogate for having a real dialogue with someone. “Face-to-face communication considerably outweighs online social media when it comes to driving happiness, because in-person contact drives close, genuine connection in a way on-line communication cannot,” said Duffy. “It’s that direct contact that lifts unhappiness.”

As Durvasula noted, “It almost feels like an artificial sweetener — the delusion of a relationship but not the actuality. Individuals wondering and wanting are often left by the empty calories of a space like Facebook. I ‘ve 2,000 Facebook friends, so why do I feel alone?”

Facebook Requires More Study

Now’s study joins a spate of others that have looked at how Facebook affects users, damages relationships, and will call things like obesity and also the caliber of hospital care. One study found that looking at your Facebook page can in fact give you a boost, since you typically have favorite things about your life posted there.

Kross said researchers need to dive deeper into this subject to assess other resources of unhappiness with Facebook use.

“The most significant takeaway,” he explained, “is being mindful the relationship between Facebook use and wellbeing for young adults is itself significant. A key challenge for future work would be to analyze whether and how Facebook use can be exploited by this age group to enhance, rather than undermine, their subjective well being.”

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