back to article Official science we knew all along: Facebook makes you sad :-(

Researchers claim to have evidence of what many of us have long since suspected: Facebook makes you sad. There is no shortage of studies that point to the negative impact of social media on people's overall well-being – some or most of which could easily be left in the "Luddite" box – but Holly Shakya from the University of …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chicken and egg

    Is it that using Facebook more makes you less happy? Or does being less happy make you retreat from the real world and use Facebook more?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Chicken and egg


      (But it won't make you happy)

    2. T. F. M. Reader

      Re: Chicken and egg

      To be fair, that's what the study - and the article - point out, too: correlation is not causation.

    3. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Chicken and egg

      Does this also apply to other "social media" such as Fetlife?

      Egg definitely beaten by the chicken there.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Chicken and egg

        Does this also apply to other "social media" such as Fetlife?

        A little closer to "home"... does this apply to El Reg commentards?

    4. Matthew Taylor

      Re: Chicken and egg

      Cause and Effect are the outmoded tools of the Patriarchy, you monster! No PhD in Feelology for you.

  2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Nationwide Building Society Advert

    This reminds me of one of those recent Nationwide Building Society adverts:

  3. dan1980

    The study suggests that interactions with your close friends, in person, make you happier than interactions with a much broader group of acquaintances semi-anonymously. But that comparison has far too many variables to be overly useful.

    Talking with your close friends, you are likely to have common ground and you understand which of your friends like what and chose to talk with them about those areas of mutual interest, increasing the satisfaction of the response. Posting about some issue to everyone you know is unlikely to meet quite so favourable a response.

    If I e-mail a niche joke or reference to a few friends who share my sense of humour and frame of reference, it's going to get a better reception from that targeted group than it would if it were broadcast to everyone I knew. I don't tell the same jokes to my partner as I do to one of my colleagues and indeed I tell different jokes and make different references with different colleagues. Some of those references will go over well with some friends.

    I think the real problem is not that people are interacting on Facebook so much as the confusion of Facebook 'friends' and real friends. With your real, close friends, you aren't striving for approval and affection.

    It's the difference between going to the pub with a couple of mates and going to a friend's wedding, where you know a few of the people really well, some of them by name and the rest by association, but wanting a similar level of approval from the latter group as from the former.

    I suppose the question is - does interacting with a group of close friends on Facebook make you unhappy? I wouldn't think so.

  4. agatum

    Which in plain English means that overweight people use Facebook more but that Facebook doesn't make you fatter.

    I thought it's a fact that depression causes overeating.

    Facebook makes you sad > you get depressed > you eat more > you grow, but not in a good way

  5. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    I much prefer using El Reg or other topical forums to FB, because using the former selects for a particular type of nutter, more closely in line with my own particular kind of nuttiness (put differently: similar bats in similar belfries). When I post astrophotos on an astro forum, likes from experts mean something, but better still are actual comments which often contain good tips on how to improve my skills. I do post a bit on FB, and make the odd comment, mainly to keep in touch with some real friends that have moved to other parts of the world, and a like from such people can put a smile on my face, but nothing beats hanging out with them in a pub (or other suitable watering hole).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The greatest strength of the internet was removing all physical (and social) distance separating people who share the same interests.

      Then people start using their meatspace identities on personality centric forums, recreating social hierarchies which are strongly localized. Letting normies on the internet was an absolute mistake.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Letting normies on the internet was an absolute mistake.

        But - I haven't spotted any? Perhaps they have their own corner of the webverse where we aren't allowed?

        Now I feel ostracized and sad.

      2. dan1980


        "The greatest strength of the internet was removing all physical (and social) distance separating people who share the same interests."

        Yes and no.

        Yes, in that people who may otherwise have been pressured to conform to the current norms find strength in numbers, realising they are not alone.

        No, in that that same effect can lead to people choosing to only associate (or at least strongly preference) those groups, neglecting the social interactions available to them in the 'real world'. It might be quaint thinking, but I believe that, to be a well-rounded person socially, you should be able to communicate with people on a range of different subjects and be able to find some common ground with most people. If all you do is communicate within the confines of a few niche interests then you are going to find that isolating.

        Or not.

        Having deep conversations about niche subjects with like-minded folk can be very rewarding (and sometimes infuriating!) but if that's all you do then it strikes me as not all that dissimilar to parents who home-school their children because they want to ensure their children aren't exposed to any contradictory ideas. In both cases, it's a deliberate shutting off of the rest of the world.

  6. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Interesting research

    and for once it looks like they have done some solid number crunching with a decent data sample. So many of these 'surveys' and 'reports' seem to be based on a sample of 10 losers they grabbed at the nearest Kwikimart checkout. Still not sure if it tells us anything we didn't know though.

    Has anyone done any research on the mental impact of El Reg Likes? Personally I find up votes give me a serious boost, nearly as good as black coffee and 85% chocolate. But then so do down votes as they let me mentally pour scorn on the poor misguided fools who are clearly wrong, and who thus justify my feeling of incredible superiority.

    And also, the article says "some or most of which could easily be left in the "Luddite" box" as if being a Luddite is somehow a bad thing.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Re: Interesting research

      It was such a struggle choosing whether to upvote or downvote this? I agree with you but feel that the moment of joy when you spot another misguided fool may be worth more to you than seeing another simpering Yes-man

      Oooh decisions, decisions

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Interesting research

      "Luddite" is used by people infatuated by a technological fad to describe other people who see the fad as just that, a passing fad. I was called a luddite many times when I referred to the iPad as an iFad. Strangely enough, I haven't seen a personal iPad in use in public for several years.

      That said, I'll cop to being a neoluddite.

      1. Suricou Raven Silver badge

        Re: Interesting research

        It's worth noting that, prior to the iPad, there had already been numerous portable ultra-portable computing devices. The Psions, iPaqs, even the old Newton. All of which were either dismal failures, or saw adoption only among the tech-loving market or executives looking to show off their business toys. At the time the iPad was introduced, it was reasonable to view it as a risky venture - another attempt to do what had failed many times before. Apple's success was down to a combination of improved technology allowing for a better product and a business model which ensured the product would be at least somewhat useful for the mass market buyer.

        Most successful products are foreshadowed by a series of failures, which the designers of the successful product then learn from.

  7. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    No mention of...

    Using Facebook to organise a meeting of a group of close friends... that must really mess the figures up.

    (Having recently partook in stag do organised via Facebook and arranging a whiskey meet up for this weekend I can attest that both of these have/Will improve(d) my mood no end though drinking May also have played a part..)

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: No mention of...

      We keep getting people wanting to organize wedding related & similar "big" social events via FB, our response is text us, phone us, email us but one or other of us using FB regularly is not going to happen

      Disclosure - I actually do have FB account, but only for "emergency" use, as (not naming & shaming) some bus companies do not put up to date travel issues on their website (grr!! - a whole issue about companies putting important stuff on social media instead of on their own site), only way to find out is via FB or Twitter, so FB account for accurate checking of Winter travel woe issues / asking bus co questions.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: No mention of...

        Wait, your bus company has a WEBSITE? Luxury (yeah, I wish I were kidding...)! Almost none of the minor entities I'm interested in (from pubs/restaurants to smaller retailers/services) even consider having their own website anymore - all of them are happy with a single Facebook page (and/or maybe a Yellow Pages entry) and that's it. The ones I'd very much like to strangle myself are those with a single page of their own, stating "see our current price list / timetable / whatever vital information on Facebook!"...

        Yes, I do get it they all want MOAR public exposure and "free advertising" by being "liked" as much as possible but that only explains this, it does not justify it. If Lucifer showed up with a magic button causing every one of these FB-only like-whoring monkeys to go out of business instantly, I'd press it before he even finished explaining the terms...

        1. Smilin' Stan

          Re: No mention of...

          I find most smaller businesses have zero ability to maintain a website, but any damn fool with a keyboard can post to Facebook (and every damn fool will, sad to say). The fact that it's a pain in the backside for the users (content layout, by definition, does not exist in a FB feed) never seems to occur to them, nor the fact that folks without a FB account are locked out. [icon represents my opinon of this strategy]

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: No mention of...

      Earth to Sarge: Alcohol is a depressant.

      Ugly thought, I know. Have a beer on my tick.

  8. Unep Eurobats

    Facebook makes you sad

    But El Reg upvotes make my day (you know where to click, peeps).




    1. malle-herbert

      Re: Facebook makes you sad

      I think you may be soliciting for a whole bunch of downvotes instead...

    2. Unep Eurobats

      Re: Facebook makes you sad

      Well that backfired spectacularly.

      Commentards I salute you.

      1. malle-herbert

        Re: Well that backfired spectacularly.

        Don't say I didn't warn you...

        Commentards don't like people groveling for upvotes...

  9. Anonymous Coward


    I suspect that spending time looking at any advertising platform will make you less than happy.

  10. wolfetone

    Facebook made me sad once when I was friends with a girl from school who I fancied. Fancied her from year 7 till I left after sixth form, and kept in touch.

    One day, about 2 years after sixth form (so she's 20 at this point, as am I at same said point), she puts photos of her holiday in the Dominican Republic, and she's there in a bikini. Be still my beating heart, years of teenage wanton lust comes flooding back and I do what any lad would do, and I click the images.

    The dream was ruined. Turns out she had a horrible, horrible tattoo that ran from her inner thigh all the way around her bum, back to her torso and up to her chest. Ruined whatever fantasies I had built up in my head over those 5 years.

    On the day J.Giels passed away, I think it's apt to play this and this.

    1. POKE 649,0

      Beauty is in the eye of the beholder mate. Everybody looks good to somebody. I for example think my girlfriend is the most beautiful thing I've ever set my beady eye on. She has no tattoos and neither do I, but if she wanted to I'd still think the same. Its not all about looks, its about what they have upstairs too. This girl you fancied decided to not conform to societal norms and did something that made her feel good. It's about doing what you feel will improve your mental wellbeing and she had the confidence and guts to go do this tattoo. She's still the same girl with the same mind you fancied, she just got some ink man! When you've got a few more years on you, you might change your tune.

      Feel free to pass along her name so we can judge for ourselves though ;)

      1. wolfetone

        Oh I know. But different strokes for different folks, I find tattoo's a turn off. I can't help that, that's how I am. It wasn't so much judging her for deciding to do that, it was more about how I had built up (like every teenage boy does) ideas and what she would look like without all the clothes on, and the reality didn't match to the dream.

        And to be honest out of all the lads I knew and hung round with, they never saw the attraction with her. I did, and she's lovely, but not for me.

        1. DropBear Silver badge

          "it was more about how I had built up (like every teenage boy does) ideas and what she would look like without all the clothes on, and the reality didn't match to the dream."

          Kinda like how with every single couple that there ever was or will be the reality of what a person is really like is guaranteed not to match at all the other party's early ideas (nor later ideas for that matter, but those will probably be a good deal closer to reality)...?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Whenever someone criticizes tattoos, a knob such as yourself pops up and posts exactly what you just did.

        This just isn't class conscious. People judge people based on presentation, because they have internalized a particular value system, and many of those people are the gatekeepers of progress in your life.

        Clothes can be changed on a whim, and behaviours with great practice, but tattoos are a rather permanent signal and mark of affiliation.

        Non-conformance to societal norms is overthrowing the bourgeoisie, NOT getting a skank flank.

        1. Geoffrey W

          @AC "Whenever someone criticizes tattoos, a knob such as yourself pops up and posts exactly what you just did."

          And then another knob pops up with some pseudo intellectual statements lightly seasoned with a mild spattering of jargon and vulgarity, much of which is dubious and/or meaningless.

          And then another knob, such as myself, pops up taking a contrary position to the second knob and before you know it, you have a mini social media-like thread full of knobs, just like you can find on FriendFace et al.

          And why not! These forums ARE just another social media site after all.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Eye of the beholder & all that.

            During the meanwhile ...

            ... my wife just came back in after spelling me walking a horse that we board that tends towards colic. I'll be out again after the foreman's 20 minute shift. She has shit on her paddock boots, horse snot on her shoulder & hay in her hair. She is the most beautiful woman in the world. The whippets & greyhounds agree with me, so we must be right :-)

            "Plastic People" --Frank Zappa

            (First posted June of 2013)

          2. Rattus Rattus

            Can someone turn up the radio for me?

            I can't find the knob.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        There is nothing "out-of-the-norm" about having tattoos, try looking in any gossip mag / column;

        in fact someone under 30 not 'having ink' is becoming the contra-fashion option.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "This girl you fancied decided to not conform to societal norms and did something that made her feel good"

        Huh? While I'll happily defend anyone's right to do that- whether I like it or not- tattoos on women have become practically commonplace in the past 10 to 15 years. Hardly against "societal norms" these days!

        1. wolfetone

          "Hardly against "societal norms" these days!"

          True. I mean, people actually go on MTV these days and let their friend tattoo them without even seeing the design until it's finished.

          Think I'm joking? I wish I was - clicky.

  11. Tim Seventh

    Facebook Study

    +1 kudo to El Reg writer for keeping as little bias as possible.

    Although the finding of "one percent increase in "likes," clicks on links and status updates, the researchers saw a 5 to 8 per cent decrease in their self-reported mental health" doesn't directly give a reasonable/ logical correlation, it is possible that it came from a psychological effect.

    Think of Facebook "likes" similar to a tasty snack. For the first few times, you became happy and enjoyed eating the snack. But as you get bored of the same amount of snacks, so you tried to upgrade the amount (by unloading a selfie...maybe). If you succeeded, you get happy again. Except now some users ended up in a trap, where they wanted/ expect the same or more of those snacks. When they are unable to get them, they get unhappy.

    Along with the fact that this study has younger adults, it may mean there are people who still care about the numbers of "likes" they receive. We could suggest them to ignore the number of "likes" at one point. Unfortunately, there is no real way to change human behavior (we really like numbers going up), so the best counter is to take a break from it.

    Just like the recommendation to get outside, anything not facebook for a while would have helped.

    1. Naselus

      Re: Facebook Study

      "Along with the fact that this study has younger adults, it may mean there are people who still care about the numbers of "likes" they receive."

      The mean age was 48. It's not exactly down with the cool kids.

      Digital ethnography is split between two groups at the moment - you have the cyber-utopians on one side who insist that social media has made everything wonderful, and the cyber-dystopians on the other who think that everything developed from the written letter onward has destroyed all human interaction and left us as soul-less automatons. Both sides regularly produce surveys and studies like this which 'prove' themselves right and the other side wrong, and generally the difference is that the dystopian's samples skew older and the utopian's samples skew younger.

      Generally, I'd suggest the reasons is that younger people tend to use social media as just one component of their wider social existence, since - lacking kids, overly-demanding jobs and other social-life killers - they have a level of availability which most of us start to lose after the age of about 30. So they use Facebook, Whatsapp and suchlike in order to compliment actually going and meeting up with people. Conversely, older people begin using social media to replace face-to-face interactions, in order to make up for the increasing level of social isolation that comes automatically with increased personal responsibilities. The younger people therefore find social media to be a great thing, while older people find it a pale shadow of what they're missing.

  12. Listen67

    Go on.... deactivate

    I always found it stressful when I posted a joke, reply or viewpoint on Facebook, as I was acutely aware of my differing audience ..i.e. 'friends'.

    I knew whilst some people would find my joke funny or would agree with my viewpoint, there would undoubtedly be some friends who would disagree, misinterpret or simply take offense.

    I would lie in bed at night feeling anxious thinking.... dam, I have upset so-and-so with that post.

    I deactivated Facebook about three months ago and now feel happier, free'er, and definitely sleep better.

    1. Tikimon

      Re: Go on.... deactivate

      SECOND THAT. One of the myriad reasons I ditched Farcebook was the inability to (without major effort) limit who got a post or could reply to it. I posted a joke or info link, then "friends of friends" - strangers to me - would chime in. Next thing I knew, there would be an energetic flame war and enraged name-calling going on between people who did not even know each other. When enough attempts to amuse or edify people I knew were co-opted and ruined by strangers, I crawled out of that cesspit and never looked back.

    2. Geoffrey W

      Re: Go on.... deactivate

      I disagree with you! You odious ratbags. How can both of you hold such an elitist pathetic viewpoint? What snivelling wretches you are. We arent good enough for Mr goody two shoes snob face. Oooooh...I'm so upset...5 million thumbs down for you...

    3. AJ MacLeod

      Re: Go on.... deactivate

      Funnily enough just about this time last week I decided I'd had enough of being wound up by the idiotic rubbish other people post and logged out of FakeFace... haven't logged back in since and have very much enjoyed the peace.

      Of course now I'm getting the manipulative emails from FakeFace trying to get me to log back in again, about all the messages that are waiting to be read from people I'm snubbing, the pictures I'm missing out on... maybe it's my contrary nature but it just kind of encourages me to ditch the whole thing for good instead!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    get off that computer and go outside and play with your friends

    But the computer /is/ my friend.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: get off that computer and go outside and play with your friends

      Are friends electric?

      1. Michael Thibault

        Re: get off that computer and go outside and play with your friends

        There's AC and there's DC. Do you mean one, the other, or both?

        1. Tikimon

          Re: get off that computer and go outside and play with your friends

          Mine are all wind-up.

    2. Vic

      Re: get off that computer and go outside and play with your friends

      But the computer /is/ my friend.

      It isn't. It's plotting against you. It told me so...


  14. FuzzyWuzzys

    Additive time hog

    The whole system is like those devices to test the intelligence of rats and birds, they do a simple task and get a little reward. Humans on Facebook, post a little article, get a few clicks. The more clicks you get, the more shit you post the more likes you get the more endorphins.

    I use FB as I keep in contact with a lot of fellow photographers but I tend to feel way better sometimes just completely keeping away from it for a few weeks as it's a time hog and it feeds an addiction to be "liked". Treat it like the drug Ectasy, once in a rare occasion is OK and you feel great, but don't over do it else you'll get addicted and feel like crap all the time!

  15. Geoffrey W

    From the article:

    "your Mom was right: get off that computer and go outside and play with your friends."

    Mom only wants you off the computer so that she can update her status and resume her web cam activities, which junior might not appreciate seeing.

  16. Keef

    Finally, a use for FB...

  17. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    Overall, Facebook use does not promote well-being

    Well, not of its users. It does wonders for Zuck's well-being.

  18. jake Silver badge


    "The mean age of those who provided Facebook data was 48 – an age at which people have spent over half their adult lives without the pervasive influence of the internet."

    Implying that people aged 48 have been online less than 15 years? I doubt it.

    And, of course, anything referencing "BMI" is always pure bullshit.

    Enjoy the research dollars while you can, folks, methinks it ain't gonna last.

  19. rids

    Face book makes me sad

    Truly, I felt Face book lurking making me horribly miserable. Before few decades ago, just one neighbor to compare. It was quite easier to be happy, at that time only one competitor was there. Now competition becomes high as so many competitors in my face book account.

    That is why I decide to take break from using face book. At same period of time I introduce one application named as Bequeathit. I tried this application. Bequeathit application is the best application from all social media application I would like to say that. No any competitor I have to face as people who have connected in my application only can connect me. Same as I can see the profile as well as activities only those people who are connected in my application.

    I suggest you all to use this application. At least you all should try this application for a once. I can surely say that you will all also feel at that level of happiness.

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