5 Ways Facebook Is Bad for Your Happiness

Article by George Norman (Cybersecurity Editor)

on 28 Nov 2016

I’m not talking about the fact that posting inappropriate things on Facebook might cost you your job or the fact that your friend Bob constantly shares fake news that lead to malware spreading websites.

Sure, losing your job and getting infected with malware is undeniably bad and enough to get anyone down. But there are other things that make Facebook bad for your happiness and general well-being. Such as…

1. Facebook makes you feel bad about your life

You’re not upset because you’re life sucks, you’re upset because you think that your friends have it better than you do. Seeing their happy posts makes you frustrated and dissatisfied. Where did Bob have the money to get that new car? And is he taking a second vacation abroad? Damn him!

A research study conducted by the Department of Information Systems of the TU Darmstadt (Prof. Dr. Peter Buxmann) and the Institute of Information Systems of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Dr. Hanna Krasnova) found that after using Facebook, more than a third of respondents showed feelings of envy, dissatisfaction, and frustration.

"Access to copious positive news and the profiles of seemingly successful 'friends' fosters social comparison that can readily provoke envy," Dr. Hanna Krasnova explained.

2. Facebook can be a relationship buster

Social psychologists from the University of Guelph in Canada found that Facebook could end your relationship by driving you toward compulsively jealous behavior.

The researchers argue that "using Facebook exposes people to often ambiguous information about their partner that they may not otherwise have access to and that this new information incites further Facebook use." And the more you use Facebook to monitor your partner, the more you’ll experience feelings of jealousy.

Facebook makes it easy to stay in touch with others – including your romantic partner. The problem is that instead of enhancing communication, it causes some to believe their partner isn’t faithful, leading to wild flights of jealous investigation and, sometimes, addictive Facebook monitoring. An unhealthy behavior that could end the relationship.

But if that happens, at least Facebook has some tools to help you get over your ex.

3. You could get addicted to likes

An UCLA study found that the brain responds to likes much in the same way it responds to sex and hard drugs.

Researchers from UCLA’s Ahmanson–Lovelace Brain Mapping Center took a bunch of teenagers and showed them some photos, including some photos that the teens submitted. When the teens saw their own photos with a large number of likes, the brain’s reward circuitry lit up like a firework. On top of that, when the teens saw a picture with lots of likes, they were more likely to like it themselves.

So getting lots of likes activates the brain’s reward regions, making us feel better. For some, this could easily turn into pleasure-seeking behavior and even full-blown addiction.

And not getting likes could lead to feelings of anger and resentment.

4. You’re friends with too many people

The average Facebook user has around 200 friends and that is problem! From multiple points of view.

First up, you probably don’t even know 20% of all your Facebook friends. You’re friends with people you barely even know. That wouldn’t happen in the real world, but things are different online, where you can click a button and instantly become someone’s "friend."

Next up, your brain isn’t wired to handle that many people. Are your familiar with Dunbar’s number? Coined by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, it states that the human brain can comfortably maintain only 150 stable relationships. So if you have more than 150 friends, your brain simply won’t care about them!

The same Robin Dunbar says that it doesn’t matter how many friends you have, you can only count on 4. Having an unusually large network of friends doesn’t increase the number of close friendships. You have 4 close friends and a bunch of loosely defined acquaintances.

"Friendships, in particular, have a natural decay rate in the absence of contact, and social media may well function to slow down the rate of decay. However, that alone may not be sufficient to prevent friendships eventually dying naturally if they are not occasionally reinforced by face-to-face interaction," said Dunbar.

5. You will come off as a jerk

Even if you don’t want to come off as a jerk, you will probably come off as a jerk. That’s because you communicate in writing and when you communicate in writing, it’s hard to convey tone. Were you serious? Were you sarcastic? Our ability to correctly sense the tone is astonishingly bad, so who knows?

We get a lot from tone of voice, inflection, and body language. When all these are replaced by text, our brains can easily misinterpret the message. Something that’s meant to be sarcastic may come off as dead serious. Something that was meant as a joke may come off as rude.

In related news…

Did you know that Facebook celebrated its 12th anniversary this year? To celebrate this joyous occasion, I put together a list of 12 interesting facts you should know about Facebook.

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