As young adults transition in life, their life satisfaction starts to decline. Poor life satisfaction usually has some adverse effects including depression, anxiety, and suicide. A factor that can explain decreasing life satisfaction is negative online comparison.
Currently, the social networking site that is most widely used is Facebook. Young people spend about 2 hours a day on this site. During this time, they browse various photos, update their status, and browse other profiles.
The use of Facebook as a social capital, the amount of time spent on the site, the effects of using Facebook, and the encouragement of social comparisons on the site provides evidence as to young adults' well-being are reciprocally related to their negative comparison on Facebook.
Using Facebook for Personal Identity Construction, Fulfilling Informational Needs, and Satisfying Need of Entertainment Can Promote Low Life Satisfaction
There is a study that examines if Facebook is related to the attitudes and behaviors that enhance individuals' social capital. Social capital is defined as the resources available to people through their social interactions. In this study, researchers talk about how Facebook can promote social capital.
While this study was about the use of Facebook and bridging social capital, the authors found that the use of the social networking site through personal identity construction, fulfilling informational needs, and satisfying need of entertainment interacted with a person's psychological well-being.
With Facebook, you can participate in personal identity construction by enabling multiple channels for interpersonal feedback and peer acceptance. Peer acceptance and interpersonal feedback are major predictors of life satisfaction. They show how Facebook can affect user's self-esteem and life satisfaction positively or negatively. A form of feedback within Facebook is information about whether prospective contacts have been accepted or rejected the owner of a profile as a "friend".
A key ingredient Facebook has for strengthening weak ties and promoting collective action is fulfilling the informational needs of users. The site has two features, News Feed and Mini-Feed, which help keep users updated about their social circles.
News Feed appears on the user's homepage and updates a personalized list of news stories throughout the day generated by the activity of "friends". Every time the user logs in, they get the latest update about their friends or contacts.
Mini-Feed appears on each individual's profile. It's similar to news feed but centers around one individual. A person's mini-feed shows what has changed recently in their profile and what content or applications they have added. With these two features, Facebook can reinforce existing ties and communities by keeping users constantly updated about what is going on with their contacts.
Users can also log on to Facebook to satisfy their needs of pure entertainment and recreation. FunWall, a popular application on Facebook, allows users to post a broad range of content which includes games, videos, and music. Posting links to jokes in YouTube on the FunWall can promote a sense of customization and enjoyment but it drives attention away from the real world. Mainly using Facebook for fun can distract users from more meaningful, public affairs content.
Research shows that Amount of Time Spent on Facebook Can Influence a Person's Well Being
While Facebook gives the user that feeling of being connected, it doesn't actually make them much happier in life. In a study conducted by the University of Michigan, the use of Facebook actually shows the declines in a user's well-being. This study is actually the first known published research that examined Facebook influence on happiness and satisfaction.
The study that was published online in PLOS ONE about the use of Facebook. It found that Facebook use declines in self-reported well-being and life satisfaction among young adults. For the study, the researchers gathered what they think was a core Facebook user demographic, 82 young adults, to answer questions about their feelings and life satisfaction five times a day over the course of two weeks.
All the participants in the study had a smartphone and a Facebook account. The questions that were asked assessed subjective feelings, social interactions, and Facebook usage time. The information of the participants as to personal motivations for using Facebook perceptions of Facebook support were also gathered during this study.
The authors found that the more people used Facebook during one time period, the worse they subsequently felt. They also asked the participants to rate their level of satisfaction at the beginning and end of the study. The results in the graph show that the more participants used Facebook over the two-week study period, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time. Specifically, how people felt moment-to-moment and how satisfied they were with their own lives.
The authors of the study wonder if the same results can also apply to senior citizens. In the interview below, Vaughn Dennis believes that it doesn't.
Facebook Encourages Social Comparisons Based on it Being a Medium of Social Exchange and Through Type of Information Sought
Since Facebook is a medium of social exchange, a vital characteristic of its use is increased access to information about and from others. Therefore Facebook encourages users to engage in social comparison with others.
The directionality of a social comparison on Facebook is determined by the relationship between the respondent and the person serving as the point of comparison. There's a tendency to make same-level comparison with close friends, downward comparison with ordinary friends, and upward comparison with distant friends, acquaintances, and strangers.
There are findings that indicate that social comparisons are rooted in familiarity with and regard for the object of comparison. Basically, the less a person knows about the other, the more they rely on the available information for the creation of perceptions about the other. The better a person knows about the other, the more neutral the comparison is.
Social Comparison Research indicates that the more an individual uses Facebook, the more they socially compare themselves to others. Since people are less likely to engage in upward social comparison with people they are close to and are more likely to make upward comparisons to people they are distant with and strangers, the higher number of non-close Facebook "friends" a person has, the greater tendency to compare upwardly.
Envy is an Outcome when Young Adults Negatively Compare on Facebook
The feeling of envy is triggered by over-exposure to social information on Facebook. Feelings of envy an cause a good amount of damage to the user's well-being and impact their life satisfaction. Past research from social psychology shows that envy can lead to depression, mental suffering, and frustration.
Users reduce platform use to limit their contact with envy-induced information but this is undesirable for social networking providers. They face a big amount of pressure to maintain a stable, constant user base.