4 Ways in Which Facebook Affects Your Mental Health

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Currently, there are many more people using social networks than those who don’t. One in four people all over the world use Facebook or Twitter (or both) and according to recent research this habit isn’t as harmless as it would seem. Medical News Today published a review of a study which suggested that people who often check their Facebook account are more likely to become anxious and develop the feeling of inadequacy. A psychiatrist from the University of Michigan, Ethan Cross, discovered that underneath the mask of giving the people what they need – a social connection, Facebook has a negative effect on the person’s mental well-being, instead of improving it.

Medical News Today looked into the statistics, according to which 42% of people that use Internet use Facebook as well, and most of those users are under 30 years of age. The data also show that the average American spends 7.6 hours each month on social networks alone.

This wouldn’t be so bad if several studies haven’t found that the use of Facebook and social media in general has a negative impact on emotions. In one study, published in 2012 by Anxiety UK, out of the 53% of respondents who said that social media affected their behavior, 51% claimed that the change wasn’t good.

Facebook gives us the opportunity to keep in touch with people from high school, or people we met on our vacation on the other side of the world, without having to send letters and wait a long time for it to be received. We are not saying that Facebook, or other social network sites are all bad. But when the use of it is too frequent and a sort of addiction is developed – that is when things get serious. Here are some of the ways Facebook use can affect your mental well-being.

  • You may start feeling less worthy or inadequate. On social networks, people usually compare their profiles to those of other people, and the same goes for experiences, and social connections. Chou and Edge (2012) from the Department of Behavioral Science at the Utah Valley University discovered that people who frequently use Facebook usually believe that other people have better lives than they do, which causes them to feel that they are less lucky or that life just isn’t fair to them. Facebook is the place where social comparison is so easy that with a simple scroll through your newsfeed you can see the posts and pictures of your Facebook friends, and these often lead to thinking your life isn’t as good, just because you have no such posts or pictures.
  • Facebook can make it harder for you to let go of the past. If you still have your ex as a Facebook friend, it is very easy to see what he/she is doing and that is actually a bad thing because it prevents you from moving on. Checking your ex’s profile may make it difficult to emotionally recover from a break up, according to Dr. Tara C. Marshall from the Department of Psychology at the Brunel University, UK. She found that online ‘stalking’ or frequent checking of the ex’s profile can be stressful and have a more negative effect on a person’s mental health than actually meeting that person on the street face to face.
  • It can have detrimental effects on your current relationship. The authors of Facebook and Your Marriage suggest that Facebook can have a negative effect on your relationship or marriage. Frequent Facebook users tend to often check their partner’s profile, like and comment on their statuses and get upset if a person of the opposite sex does the same, or God forbid appears on a picture with their partner. This constant checking up leads to unnecessary jealousy, broken trust and causes frustration and fighting between partners. That is why the authors of the mentioned book also advise discussing the use of Facebook with your partner and agree on acceptable behaviors and desired boundaries.
  • You can become addicted. Just like with coffee, chocolate or cigarettes, Facebook too can be addictive. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual has even acknowledged that there is such a thing as Internet addiction. That started a chain of studies and has drawn lots of media attention. Finally, in 2012 a scale for Facebook addiction was made, and a research conducted the same year by Hofmann and colleagues showed that Facebook can be even more addictive than cigarettes or alcohol, and that people get rid of the habit of using it with more difficulty.

Even after all these facts, we cannot say that Facebook is all bad. It is the people who need to get into control of their actions and use Facebook only moderately, and not let themselves become addicted. You can do this by limiting your Facebook use to a couple of minutes per day, or have a set time when you will check your account. Most importantly, don’t let it rule your life. Don’t live your life on social networks. Go out and socialize in person rather than spending your time socializing on Facebook.

Just don’t forget there is life out there, outside your computer, and you will be fine.