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Whether Facebook Makes You Lonely Depends On How You Use It

Not long ago, we reported on a new University of Michigan study that found the more young people used Facebook, the worse they felt. According to the research, Facebook use led to declines in moment-to-moment happiness and overall life satisfaction. But the New Yorker did some further digging and found a few recent studies that show the opposite — that using Facebook can make us happier.

How did these studies come up with such starkly different results? It all has to do with how you actually use Facebook. Are you actively liking, commenting and chatting with others on the platform? Or are you passively lurking?

Studies show active users get positive brain stimuli when engaging with the Facebook platform, while lurkers tend to feel increases in loneliness and dissatisfaction.

When we wrote about Facebook making us feel more lonely, the most popular comment on the post was a quote from Steven Furtick: "The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel."

And as more platforms and tasks compete for our attention, that means more passive — or loneliness-inducing use of Facebook, as The New Yorker's Maria Konnikova writes:

"The world of constant connectivity and media, as embodied by Facebook, is the social network's worst enemy: in every study that distinguished the two types of Facebook experiences — active versus passive — people spent, on average, far more time passively scrolling through newsfeeds than they did actively engaging with content. This may be why general studies of overall Facebook use, like Kross's of Ann Arbor residents, so often show deleterious effects on our emotional state. Demands on our attention lead us to use Facebook more passively than actively, and passive experiences, no matter the medium, translate to feelings of disconnection and boredom."

The Verge also does a good job of explaining all the caveats to the Facebook-sadness link. Check it out.

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