Facebook has once again faced sharp criticism over the potential negative effects social media can have on someone’s life, but this time it is back with more than a simple statement. The company has warned that passively browsing your News Feed could have a negative effect on your mood, citing research the found passive activities may lead to feeling bad whereas active participation — such as leaving comments on friends’ posts — may be beneficial.
A few days ago, a former Facebook executive accused the social network of having a harmful effect on society, saying that he has “tremendous guilt” for helping make Facebook into what it is today. Many people — and particularly those who were already anti-Facebook — latched onto this as a sign that nothing good can come from social media. Facebook, though, says there are two sides to this story.
People often point toward different aspects of social networks like Facebook to justify why they may be good or bad. Social media addiction is a real problem for some people, for example, while others accuse services like Facebook of being a waste of time. Others point out the potential benefits of social media, such as providing a platform in which people can find each other, promote causes, and more.
Facebook said in a recent essay that the way someone uses its social platform may have a big effect on how it influences their life. “In general, when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information — reading but not interacting with people — they report feeling worse afterward,” the company said.
Facebook points toward a University of Michigan study that found people experienced a worse mood if they read Facebook for ten minutes a day versus others who actively talked with friends or posted on the social network.
Though the causes aren’t clear, researchers hypothesize that reading about others online might lead to negative social comparison — and perhaps even more so than offline, since people’s posts are often more curated and flattering. Another theory is that the internet takes people away from social engagement in person.
However, the company says that studies have shown that interactions and active engagement on Facebook has been shown to improve mood and social support in users. This effect was found to be strongest when someone talked with a close friend online. Having one-on-one interactions with people online seems to be key.
Facebook said, “In sum, our research and other academic literature suggests that it’s about how you use social media that matters when it comes to your well-being.”