Lurking is as bad as we suspected
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If looking at all of your friends’ pictures on Facebook didn’t make your holiday cheerier this year, you’re not alone. According to a recent study conducted by University of Copenhagen researchers and published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking, spending too much time on social media platforms can negatively affect your emotional well-being. This may sound like a no-brainer for some, but having the scientific evidence to back those suspicions up may be the impetus we need to kick-start a healthier online lifestyle.
After surveying more than 1,000 (mostly female) participants, researchers found that one of the most damaging habits involves “lurking”—otherwise known as “Facebook stalking”—without actually contacting anyone online. The key difference when it comes to Facebook’s affect on the mood is active versus passive use of the site. One of the most predictable feelings to arise from a passive behavior pattern is envy, along with a “deterioration of mood,” most likely caused by “unrealistic social comparisons.” In an era marked by photo filters and advanced editing tools, Kendall Jenner doesn’t solely have the ability to make us feel like liver-spotted mountain trolls, our friends and family do as well.
Another study conducted in 2015 revealed that teens who use social media platforms for more than two hours a day have a higher chance of suffering from mental illness. That represents roughly a quarter of the students surveyed as part of the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey. On the flip side, the same social media networks that cause emotional distress also offer the opportunity to provide mental health services to teens who might not be able to find them otherwise.
So what can we do to curb these feelings of intense envy and self-deprecation? The answer is pretty simple, say the study’s writers. Limit your time on social media and consider using it for its intended purpose of connecting, rather than obsessing. The study found that the more you use the site, the benefits of limiting Facebook time tend to increase. Or you can always go the more militant route and ditch Facebook altogether. You’ll likely be happier for it.