August 15, 2013 2:26 pm
Facebook tends to project a rosy facade. Photo albums are filled with smiling selfies and images of happy life highlights—beach trips, delicious meals, adorable things your cat does. Status updates boast about fun nights out. But Facebook’s direct influence on our mood may be more darkly subversive. New research, Time reports, finds that Facebook usage correlates with unhappiness.
When the participants started the study, they rated how satisfied they were with their lives. During the following two weeks, the researchers texted them at two-hour intervals five times a day to ask about how they felt about themselves, as well as how much time they had spent on Facebook since the last time they were texted.
The more time the 82 University of Michigan students who participated in the study spent on Facebook during any two-hour block, the less happy they reported feeling. This also held true for the participants’ average use over the two-week study period—those who used Facebook more reported feeling less satisfied with their lives, Time writes.
The students may have felt lower after combing through their peers’ status updates and pics for a number of reasons, the researchers speculated. Seeing a seemingly endless stream of other people’s shining successes and fun times may make us feel lower about our own largely mundane lives. Alternatively, users may feel jealous or slighted by the lack of comments or “likes” on their page compared to their social butterfly friends.
Finally, people simply may be missing out on more genuinely enjoyable or happiness-promoting activities—exercising, doing something fun or productive away from the computer, actually hanging out with physical friends—while they’re obsessively checking Facebook, the researchers said.
More from Smithsonian.com:
Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive the best stories from Smithsonian.com each week.