A new study by the journal Social Influence has proven that social networking sites like Facebook really are bad for users, a concern that has been shared by many psychological authorities for years. Certain practices on the popular site were noted to cause feelings of invisibility and a lack of belongingness. Experts are raising the issue that excessive interaction with social media is distancing people from each other and negatively affecting in-person communication.
One cause of low self-esteem related to social networking is the “social filter” that people use when updating statuses and posting photos. Because Facebook is a site for sharing with peers, most people tend to post the good things that happen to them, while leaving out the bad. This can become a dangerous practice because people may start to think that the people on their friends list are happy all of the time, compared to their own lives, which have problems and disappointments. This altered perception of reality can cause people to think that there is something wrong with them, because they do not have the same perfect life as pictured on their friends’ Facebook accounts.
Another negative impact of social networking is an increase in stress among users. Actions like sending a friend request or a message have the potential to cause anxiety in users as a result of the fear of social rejection to which these may lead. The “fear of missing out,” or FOMO, is also experienced by some social network users. This is a phenomenon that can lead to social networking addiction, a consequence that really is bad for the lives of Facebook users, as they check the site constantly to make sure that they do not miss an important update from one of their friends. This causes a disconnect from the world around users, who find themselves paying more attention to their phone than the physical setting that they are in. Besides the addictive potential of this fear, this can also lead to elevated levels of stress whenever users are not on the site.
By participating in social networking, users enter a situation where they are set up for either social acceptance or rejection. When a status or photo goes without being commented on or “liked,” the person who posted it can experience a feeling of ostracism from the community. In one part of the recent study, one half of participants used accounts that they did not know were set up to receive no feedback on posts. Compared to the half that did receive feedback, the group that was muted from others’ feeds were reported to have a lower sense of meaning in their existence, as well as lower self-esteem and a feeling that they lacked control in their lives. Another aspect of social networking studied was the act of lurking, or reading the site, but not posting any updates. This test looked at a group of users who were restricted from posting privileges for 48 hours. The users in this category experienced similar negative effects as those in the first group, ranging from lowered self-esteem to a lowered sense of belonging. Users reported that they felt as if they were stuck watching their friends go out and do things without being able to participate themselves.
Many concerns have been brought up regarding the negative effects of social networking, and this study has proved that the fears are real. The consequences really are bad for some users of sites like Facebook, who rely on them for a majority of their social interactions.
By Joseph Chisarick