Using Facebook can make people seriously unhappy - often due to feelings of jealousy at the ‘perfect’ lives we all witness on the site.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, seeing ‘edited highlights’ of other people’s lives isn’t exactly an emotional boost.
But if you ‘stalk’ friends or exes, you could make things worse.
Many seemingly innocent habits on Facebook can damage your emotional health - making you feel envious and depressed, and even eroding real-life friendships.
1) Do you ‘stalk’ friends or exes on Facebook?
A University of Houston study found that Facebook use is linked to feelings of depression - and people who ‘stalk’ friends, exes and family are most at risk.
Spending hours on Facebook poring over the details of other people’s lives can be unhealthy, researchers warn.
Researcher Mai-Ly Steers said, ‘It doesn’t mean Facebook causes depression, but that depressed feelings and lots of time on Facebook and comparing oneself to others tend to go hand in hand.
‘Most of our Facebook friends tend to post about the good things that occur in their lives, while leaving out the bad.’
2) Do you just ‘read’ Facebook - without ever posting your own updates?
People who sit browsing Facebook posts and looking at other people’s profiles all day become envious, unhappy and miserable.
This is how most people use the site, University of Michigan researchers warn.
‘Facebook undermines how people feel,’ lead researcher Ethan Kross said.
People who post on Facebook and chat with others (ie using the site ‘actively’) don’t show the same decline in happiness levels, the researchers say.
3) Do you log into Facebook because you fear you are missing out?
The fear of missing out - or FOMO - is one of the reasons people log in to Facebook - and it makes it hard to stop using the site, says the founder of a group dedicated to giving up Facebook.
Merijn Straathof, founder of 99 Days, says that people participating in his project - where users attempt to give up Facebook for 99 days - fear giving up because of the idea they might miss something.
But users who DO give up find themselves feeling happier, he says.
Straathof says, ‘People often describe the feeling that they are missing out on something - or a fear that they might be missing out on something,’ he says.
‘Many of these go on to say that they later had a peek at Facebook - and it turned out that they hadn’t actually missed anything.’
‘Our surveys show that most people feel slightly happier after the experiment - and 25% give up Facebook for good.
4) Do you bombard your friends with news about your triumphs?
Many of us post news about our little successes on Facebook - imagining our friends will enjoy them just as much as we do.
But the habit could erode your real-life friendships, researchers have warned.
A study by Carnegie Mellon University found that most of us underestimate just how much people hate ‘humblebrags’ online.
‘When we engage in self-promotion ourselves, we tend to overestimate others’ positive reactions and underestimate their negative ones,’ said Irene Scopelliti of City University, the study’s lead author.
‘These results are particularly important in the Internet age, when opportunities for self-promotion have proliferated via social networking.
5) Do you moan about bad news on Facebook - and look for support?
People can be a cruel bunch – and it’s even worse on Facebook, where sharing negative news makes people shun you as a ‘downer’.
People with low self-esteem amplify their problems by visiting the site, as the ‘sharing’ aspect of the site means they broadcast their problems, University of Waterloo researchers found.
Bombarding friends with negative news makes them like you less, says a new study.
‘If you’re talking to somebody in person and you say something, you might get some indication that they don’t like it, that they’re sick of hearing your negativity,says Amanda Forest, a graduate student at the University of Waterloo.
‘On Facebook, you don’t see most of the reactions.’