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Researchers at the University of Missouri, Columbia have found that Facebook can lead to depression. According to the researchers, the envy we feel towards our friends on the social network may lead to depression.
Margaret Duffy, a professor and chair of strategic communication at the MU School of Journalism, wrote that “We found that if Facebook users experience envy of the activities and lifestyles of their friends on Facebook, they are much more likely to report feelings of depression.”
Based on a survey of 700 students, the researchers found that users who engage in “surveillance use” and “browsing the website to see check up on their friends and then compare with their own lives” can suffer from depression. Those that are safe from depression, the study concludes, are Facebook users who use the site to contact friends and family.
For their study, Duffy and Edson Tandoc, a former doctoral student at MU and now an assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, surveyed the 700 young Facebook users.
The researchers describe surveillance use of Facebook when users browse the website to see how their friends are doing compared with their own lives. Posting about expensive vacations, new houses or cars, or happy relationships, the researchers have found, can trigger feelings of envy among surveillance users. And it is these feelings that can lead Facebook users to experience symptoms of depression.
The small number of students tested on the survey should not be of concern, as it, in its small size, represent the whole. Facebook is a playground for competition of lifestyles, in the form, mostly, of pictures. The other culprit fuelling the envy could be hashtags like #myawesomelife.
Professor Duffy added that “Facebook can be a very positive resource for many people, but if it is used as a way to size up one’s own accomplishments against others, it can have a negative effect. It is important for Facebook users to be aware of these risks so they can avoid this kind of behaviour when using Facebook.”