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Are you a lurker? Well, every month about 1.65 billion people are actively using the social media site Facebook. Each user is spending about 50 minutes using the site each day, which is really more time than you realize and more than on any other leisure activity except for TV watching. On the average the U.S. American spends 19 minutes reading every day and only 17 minutes on exercise, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That makes the nearly one hour spent on Facebook as significant and around the same amount of time you spend eating and drinking! Of course this doesn’t take into account those people, specifically teens, that spend far more time and sometimes up to nine hours a day on social media.
This lurking will cause you to be inundated with photos and posts depicting other people’s seemingly perfect families and lives. These can induce feelings of envy and lead to unrealistic social comparisons that can bring down your mood and level of well being, and even lead to depression.
Those using Facebook expect to feel better but, in fact, they actually feel worse. If everyone expected that to happen, they’d probably stop using it. Part of this is due to a feeling of having wasted time, according to a Computers in Human Behavior study. They report that Facebook activity is associated with a dampened mood. I personally do not spend time on Facebook for this very reason. It’s a waste of my time that could better be spent on something productive.
Frequent posting on Facebook has also been associated with increased rumination and the users were more at risk of depression if they displayed the following:
- Felt envy after observing others
- Accepted former partners as Facebook friends
- Made negative social comparisons
- Made frequent negative status updates
The researchers at the University of Houston explored Facebook’s emotional effects and found a link between usage of the site and symptoms of depression, which among men, was associated with the tendency to make social comparisons with others. As it turned out in a second study, social comparison was significantly associated with depression symptoms in both men and women.
Nighttime use of social media is also linked to sleep problems, lower self-esteem and higher levels of anxiety and depression among the 12 to 18 year olds. Those aged 19 to 32 were also significantly associated with disturbed sleep in a Preventive Medicine study. When melatonin is suppressed, there is less stimulation to promote sleepiness at a healthy bedtime.
Facebook wants you to spend more time on their site and that it would become a platform that’s on all day to become basically a background for your life. They are busy cooking up ways to get us to spend even more time on their platform. You must be aware for yourself and your children that using Facebook exposes you to a lot of advertising that is targeted to your habits and interest.
Facebook uses a sophisticated algorithm to track your interests, who you talk with, what you say, your age, gender, income level and a phenomenal number of other specifics that allow advertisers to target exactly who they believe will click on their ads. Some are not harmless, like drug ads that can have more sinister effects.
Even though it is a wonderful platform for friends and family to socialize and share, it’s important to keep the use in perspective and use the sites that make you feel good and not worse after browsing.
Dr Fredda Branyon