I’ve been reading a number of different studies that are in opposite camps about Facebook: on the one hand, Facebook helps us feel more social; on the other hand, Facebook depresses us. So which is it?
Maria Konnikova, writing in The New Yorker, summarizes that the answer isn’t black and white:
The key to understanding why reputable studies are so starkly divided on the question of what Facebook does to our emotional state may be in simply looking at what people actually do when they’re on Facebook. “What makes it complicated is that Facebook is for lots of different things—and different people use it for different subsets of those things. Not only that, but they are alsochanging things, because of people themselves changing,” said Gosling. A 2010 study from Carnegie Mellon found that, when people engaged in direct interaction with others—that is, posting on walls, messaging, or “liking” something—their feelings of bonding and general social capital increased, while their sense of loneliness decreased. But when participants simply consumed a lot of content passively, Facebook had the opposite effect, lowering their feelings of connection and increasing their sense of loneliness.
I would argue that “liking” things on Facebook has become the generic, zombie-like action that isn’t particularly social. Commenting on photos and posts, however, are examples of actively engaging with content.