Is Facebook making people sad?

Brett Michael Dykes

In addition to sparking bloody family feuds over denied friend requests, Facebook is depressing the heck out of people, according to a new study.

According to Alex Jordan, the Standford University Ph.D. student who led the study by the school's psychology department, the Facebook users his group monitored often grew saddened as they plugged into the accounts of the excellent leisure pursuits and professional triumphs that their peers post on the networking site. In short, the subjects in the study reported a gnawing sense that life was a party that they weren't invited to.

Reports Slate:

In one of the Stanford studies, Jordan and his fellow researchers asked 80 freshmen to report whether they or their peers had recently experienced various negative and positive emotional events. Time and again, the subjects underestimated how many negative experiences ("had a distressing fight," "felt sad because they missed people") their peers were having. They also overestimated how much fun ("going out with friends," "attending parties") these same peers were having. In another study, the researchers found a sample of 140 Stanford students unable to accurately gauge others' happiness even when they were evaluating the moods of people they were close to—friends, roommates and people they were dating. And in a third study, the researchers found that the more students underestimated others' negative emotions, the more they tended to report feeling lonely and brooding over their own miseries.

Meanwhile, Facebook reports that it now has over 500 million active users who spend over 700 billion minutes on the site each month -- even though some detractors characterize the whole thing as a giant Ponzi scheme. Perhaps it's true what they say about misery loving company?

(Image via: Getty/Erin Patrice O'Brien)