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Facebook Use Predicts User's Wellbeing

Update Date: Aug 14, 2013 05:00 PM EDT

How much you're on Facebook predicts how happy you really are, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that Facebook use may predict declines in a user's wellbeing.

Researchers said the latest study, published in the journal PLOS One, is the first that examines Facebook's influence on happiness and satisfaction.

"On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection," lead researcher Ethan Kross, a social psychologist at the University of Michigan, said in a news release. "But rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result - it undermines it."

Researchers said the latest study is of "critical importance because it goes to the very heart" of how social networks influence people's lives.

The latest study involved 82 young adults who all had smart phones and Facebook accounts.

Researchers evaluated the subjective wellbeing of participants by texting them at random times five times a day for two weeks.

Each text message contained a link to an online survey with five questions:

1) How do you feel right now? 
2) How worried are you right now? 
3) How lonely do you feel right now? 
4) How much have you used Facebook since the last time we asked? 
5) How much have you interacted with other people "directly" since the last time we asked?

The study revealed that the more people used Facebook during one time period, the worse they felt afterwards.

Participants were also asked to rate their level of life satisfaction at the start and end of the study.  The findings reveal that the more people used Facebook over the study period, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time.

However, researchers noted that they found no evidence that interacting directly with other people via phone or face-to-face negatively influenced wellbeing.  Instead, the study revealed that direct interaction with other people led people to feel better over time.

The study also found no evidence that Facebook undermines happiness.  People were not more likely to use Facebook when they were unhappy, and while people were more likely to use Facebook when they were lonely, lonliness and Facebook use both independently predicted how happy participants subsequently felt.

Researchers said the next step is to conduct additional research with participants from a variety of age groups to see if the findings apply to all people and they psychological mechanisms behind them.

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