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Is Facebook harming the way you see your life?

Mar 11, 2015

As much as we seem to love checking our Facebook feeds, the result may not be what you’d expect.

Passively using Facebook may be making your day worse.
Credit FLICKR USER URS SREINER / FLICKR

Ethan Kross from the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan recently published some of his findings involving Facebook in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

His research deals with how technology as “pervasive” as Facebook affects the way people feel throughout their day. To do this, he used a technology called “experience sampling.”

“Experience sampling” involves sending text messages to the study’s participants five times a day for two weeks. In his study, the text messages asked questions like “How do you feel right now?” and “How much have you used Facebook since the last time we messaged you?”

“What we found in that study which was really interesting was the more people used Facebook in between two text messages, the more their moods declined from one moment to the next and that relationship held over the two week period,” Kross said.

But why? Kross discovered it was a certain type of Facebook usage that caused these declines in mood: passive usage.

“Maybe that’s what’s really harmful, because what you’re doing as you’re passively scrolling is you’re continually seeing how good everyone else’s life is, because people tend to post positive information on the website.”

And passive usage, Kross said, is the most common form of Facebook usage. Active usage, which is less common, does not have the same negative results.

“The more you use Facebook passively, the worse you subsequently feel,” Kross said. “Using Facebook actively on the other hand, has no implications for how people feel from one moment to the next. It’s totally benign in terms of its implications for people’s mood.”

Update: here's the video of comedian Louis C.K. that Springer mentioned in the interview.