Has there ever been a study that made Facebook sound like a good thing? I mean, we've all heard about studies that show scrolling through your friends' cheery Facebook statuses makes you feel inadequate or lonely, and then of course there was that time Facebook conducted an unethical study of their own, and now it turns out that the longer you're on Facebook, the more you feel like you've wasted your time. Poor Facebook. Clearly they have angered whatever deity is in charge of scientific studies.
According to researchers in Austria, staying on Facebook for any significant chunk of time tends to make people feel bad. And apparently it's due to the fact that even Facebook users consider the site to be a time-waster. “It appears that, compared to browsing the Internet, Facebook is judged as less meaningful, less useful, and more of a waste of time, which then leads to a decrease in mood,” the researchers explain.
The researchers conducted two experiments involving about 300 participants. In one they asked people to simply state how much time they spent on Facebook and then rate their mood. In another, people were divided into three groups, those who were told to spend 20 minutes on Facebook, those who were told to spend 20 minutes surfing the Internet, and those who were given no instructions at all. Both studies found that people felt worse the more they used Facebook. And the root cause seems to be that people don't consider Facebook to be a meaningful activity.
"It’s not surprising that if you do something you don’t consider very meaningful, you’re not in a good mood afterward," one of the studies authors, Christina Sagioglou told the Huffington Post. And anyone who's ever glanced at the time and realized they've just spent an hour on Facebook — but can't for the life of them remember what they actually did on Facebook —shouldn't be surprised by that idea.
This all makes sense, too, given Facebook's incentive to make the site as addictive as possible so that people will spend more time there and thus drive up ad revenue for the company. But making the site more addicting means people aren't consciously deciding to stay on because they're having fun but rather getting sucked in inadvertently due to clever website hocus pocus. And that all leads to the feelings of self-disgust and regret that follow those accidental binges. I I had a dollar for every time I've thought to myself "Why did I just spend all that time on Facebook?" I would be...well, nowhere near as rich as Mark Zuckerberg, actually, but way, way richer than I am now.
So if Facebook is making you feel icky, at least know that you are not alone.