It was interesting to read the findings in this 2009 article about Facebook’s effects on its users’ psyches. The authors of that study found “positive relationships between intensity of Facebook use and students’ life satisfaction, social trust, civic engagement, and political participation.”
As reassuring as the results of that study are, I was reminded of another study I saw drift across my own Facebook newsfeed recently, the Huffington Post headline above. That article references a 2014 academic paper which found that Facebook activity negatively affected people’s emotional state, creating feelings “such as envy, lowered life satisfaction, reduced satisfaction of basic psychological needs, and dampened mood.”
The stark contrast in the findings of these two studies raises some interesting questions about the current state of research into the relationship between new forms of mass communication and the society that uses them.
For one, it’s difficult to measure some of the elements of these studies. How do you quantify a person’s “life satisfaction”? How do you catalog someone’s Facebook use when it is increasingly a part of everything we do online?
Perhaps more importantly, the nature of our relationship with these new forms of media is still taking shape. I think it’s altogether possible that there has been a shift in the psychological effects of Facebook in the five years between the first study and the second.
What do you think, does the contrast between these two studies indicate differing research methods, or a societal change in our relationship with Facebook?