Passive social media use harms mental health says scientists

The Facebook application is seen on a phone screen, August 3, 2017. (REUTERS/Thomas White)

Social scientists from Facebook have admitted that passive consumption of the content on the social media platform can lead to negative effects on the user’s mood and mental health. However, actively interacting with friends on the social site can improve a person’s well-being.

The statements were made via a blog post titled “Hard Questions: Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us?” by David Ginsberg, Director of Research, and Moira Burke, Research Scientist at Facebook. According to them, the recent findings that blame social media for increasing social alienation, anxiety, and depression have compelling points.

According to research done outside the company, passive usage of social media, or reading but not interacting with people, generally makes people feel worse.

On the other hand, active interaction with contacts on social media have an opposite effect and are generally linked to better well-being. These interactions include sharing messages, posts, and comments with close friends and reminiscing about past interactions.

“This ability to connect with relatives, classmates, and colleagues is what drew many of us to Facebook in the first place, and it’s no surprise that staying in touch with these friends and loved ones brings us joy and strengthens our sense of community,” said the social scientists.

The blog post also pointed to experiments that show the effects of interacting on social media as opposed to just taking the content in. Students who are tasked to passively read Facebook for 10 minutes reported worse moods compared to those who were assigned to post content and communicate with their friends.

The blog post concluded that based on research, how a person uses social media is what matters when it comes to well-being.

With this in mind, Facebook says it is working on making the platform more about social interaction. The social media giant is making improvements on the quality of its News Feed to make sure that users see content that matters to them.

Facebook also launched a new feature called Snooze to give users more control over what they see on their news feed. Snooze allows users to hide content from a person, page, or group for 30 days without having to unfollow them.

Another feature called Take a Break will help former couples deal better with a breakup by controlling the visibility of content from their exes.