Recently in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a study was performed that suggested that people, contrary to popular belief, actually become more depressed after using Facebook. While Facebook fulfills people’s basic needs for human interaction, it does not necessarily make us feel happy afterwards. This study is very thought provoking and I skeptically agree with what it asserts. While the evidence is there, I cannot help but wonder what extraneous factors affect the user’s mood after using Facebook. The article, despite its flaws such as its intrusive design, inconsistent rating system, and narrow demographics, makes me consider every possible way Facebook affects others as well as myself negatively.
The researchers at the University of Michigan performed the study by recruiting eighty- two volunteers from the Ann Arbor area. The volunteers had to own a touch screen smartphone and a mobile Facebook app to qualify for the study; their incentive for signing up for the study was $20 and entry into a raffle for an iPad. The subjects received text messages that contained links to surveys at five random times per day every day for two weeks. The questions were, “(1) How do you feel right now? (very positive  to very negative ; (2) How worried are you right now? (not at all  to a lot ; (3) How lonely do you feel right now? (not at all  to a lot ; (4) How much have you used Facebook since the last time we asked? (not at all  to a lot ; (5) How much have you interacted with other people “directly” since the last time we asked? (not at all to a lot .” After all the data was collected, it was analyzed to find a correlation between high Facebook usage and low subjective wellbeing.
I feel as if the results of the study could very well be accurate. The study was very thought provoking for me. Ever since I read the article, I’ve been finding that I actually feel miserable after going on Facebook just as often as I feel happy after going on Facebook. Personally, one thing that makes me feel glum after using the social networking site is reading the amount of useless or annoying things people post. I also feel my emotions are pent up because my personal filter prevents me from speaking my mind on the Internet, which is a good thing, but it leaves me feeling irritated after I log out.
Although I replicate the conclusions of the experiment, I think that there may be some flaws in the final data resulting from poor experimental design. First of all, the experiment was designed so people were randomly messaged five times every day. Each time, they had to answer five survey questions. The style of the experiment was very invasive. By the end of the two-week period, the subjects may have gotten annoyed with the constant questions and rated their happiness lower accordingly.
Also, the way people were asked to rate themselves was perplexing to me, and most likely the participants as well. They had to tell how they felt on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being great and 100 being terrible. This may have confused some of the participants because normally, a higher number connotes a better or higher value. Oddly enough, the other questions actually follow this precedent, such as rating amount of worry based on 0 to 100, with 0 being none and 100 being a lot. Needless to say, there are discrepancies between the subjects’ mental models of rating and how the rating actually works in this study, most likely creating some confusion.
It is important to take into consideration the little variation of demographics of the study, as people in different stages of their lives or different social groups behave in different ways. Ann Arbor is where the University of Michigan is located, which means that the majority of people who partook in the study were college students. Since the participants had to have smartphones to be involved in the study, it is safe to assume that the study sampled mostly middle to upper- class tech- savvy people. The sample was also predominantly female, so male behavior was not fairly represented in the study. Among the demographics left out of consideration are middle school and high school students, middle- aged adults, elderly people, lower class people, and the less educated adults. There was an uneven distribution between the classes of the college students in the study, which may have posed a problem. There were far more underclassmen than upperclassmen who participated in the study. The Facebook habits of freshman vs. seniors are most likely very different; freshmen are more likely to have friends who are still in high school. It is safe to say the majority of drama on social networking comes from high school students, and the commotion is likely to affect college freshman more than seniors.
One question that I have is what exactly makes people feel worse after using Facebook? Facebook is a means of communicating with others without a human-to-human interface. Often, people feel more comfortable speaking their minds when they are not face to face with another person. Basically, people say bold things online that they would otherwise be too intimidated to say in real life, and depending on the subject, these things can offend people. Also going along with the idea that Facebook removes the modesty barrier of a human-to-human interface, people often friend request or accept friend requests from people they otherwise do not get along with. Seeing a person who you cannot stand posting happy or proud comments may make you a bit angry. Any negative interaction with foes via Facebook is also sure to leave you feeling terrible after you log out. Of course, Facebook could just be used by your friends to spread bad news that could upset you. Is it possible, since the experiment asked users how lonely they felt, that Facebook could make you feel even lonelier? Maybe you log on to Facebook to find there are 0 new messages waiting for you in your inbox and several of your friends are out having fun on a get-together you were not even invited to. Just like there are many ways Facebook makes you happy, there are a myriad of ways Facebook can put you in a bitter mood.
While the study presents some conclusions that may seem a bit outlandish, it is important to consider how using Facebook really makes us feel. Many people, myself included, get so caught up in the momentum of social networking that they do not take the time to consider that Facebook may actually be detrimental to well- being. The results of this study should by no means be considered universal, however, should be taken as a warning to society. Take a step back and think about whether Facebook truly adds fulfillment to your life, or if it adds unnecessary stress that lowers your overall wellbeing.