Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Is Facebook Reducing your Wellbeing?

Facebook lowers life Satisfaction

According to a recent study Facebook can make us feel worse about ourselves and our lives.  Facebook is widely regarding as a way of keeping in touch with our friends and family and allowing us to stay well connected.  The study conducted by The universities of Michigan and Leuven in Belgium recruited a group of young people in their late teens and early 20’s to test this out.  Participants were text messaged five times a day for 14 days with an online survey asking questions like ‘How do you feel right now?’ and ‘How much have you used Facebook since the last time we asked?’ and completed a life satisfaction survey before and after.

The researchers reported that the more the participants used Facebook, the more unhappy and dissatisfied they felt with their lives; whereas direct social contact made them feel better about themselves and had no negative effects on their life satisfaction.  It was found that Facebook was more likely to be used when the individuals felt bad which subsequently made them feel worse.  Social comparison with peers and friends was cited as one of the main reasons which lead to increased feelings of dissatisfaction and lower states of wellbeing.  

Facebook linked to Narcissism

Other studies* looking at the correlation between social media use and narcissism in those in middle age also indicates that there is a link between narcissistic traits and amount of Facebook use.  In our self obsessed ‘generation me’ culture, people are seemingly more needy for validation and approval than ever before and with social media those needs are met instantly. Self worth may lower if we feel that we aren’t achieving the same amount of ‘likes’ on our posts or aren’t having as an exciting life as our peers as we perceive it.  The studies suggest however that certain personality traits such as exhibitionism can be magnified with use of social media rather than Social media being the problem in itself. 

Facebook isn’t the core issue

Studies conclude that there is no substitute for face to face contact though should we cut ourselves off from Social Media altogether?  It can be a source of great social support for younger and older generations alike and enables us to keep in touch with people when in our busy lives we wouldn’t otherwise do.  There are certain indicators like existing low self esteem issues and loneliness that make some more vulnerable to being affected by Facebook use. Like any platform, it is how and when we use it that is key to our Psychological wellbeing and it being a positive rather than a negative addition in our lives.  

Here’s 5 tips for keeping yourself and your family sane whilst using Facebook: 

  1.  Keep Boundaries around yours and your family’s Facebook Use: With Smartphones and iPads, we are all switched onto Social Media 24-7 and it can easily eat up your spare time. Have certain times in the day when you switch it off and spend time speaking on the phone and face to face with your family and friends. 
  2. Avoid Using Facebook when you’re in a low or frustrated mood.  As research suggests, it only creates a further downer when you do, so be more conscious of doing things like going out for a run or phoning a good friend to boost your mood.   
  3. Ask yourself what is the purpose for you using Facebook and does it really add something positive to your life? If it doesn’t and the negatives outweigh the positives, consider deleting your account and encouraging your friends/family to use another social media platform like Instagram or Twitter to keep in touch.
  4. If you or a family member is using Facebook because you’re feeling lonely or isolated, consider other options.  Social media is easily accessible though it can lower confidence and self esteem if other social outlets aren’t utilised.  Consider joining a group for a hobby you enjoy or starting a night class.  If you feel you need support to overcome your barriers, you may consider speaking to a Therapist for support. 
  5.  Finally, try changing the way you use Facebook so it becomes a more positive social outlet in your life.  Rather than moaning for instance as a lot of people do (or on the other handing, showing off about how wonderful your life is!) try sharing something positive or inspiring that has happened to you or you’ve come across.  If certain ‘friends’ on Facebook become regularly annoying or negative, try deleting them from your Facebook newsfeed or deleting them altogether!  Weave a new social fabric in your life and experience your positivity grow.