Multiple outlets remonstrated the Facebook-inclined yesterday, to the effect of "Facebook Use Predicts Decline In Happiness." The stories were based on an academic research article out of the University of Michigan published in PLOSOne, titled "Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults."
In the new study, 82 college students (average age 19, having received $20 for their trouble) went about their academic, Ann Arboreal days. That included their usual amount of Facebook use. For two straight weeks, researchers "text-messaged participants five times per day. ... Each text-message contained a link to an online survey, which participants completed using their smartphones."
The surveys asked questions like "How do you feel right now?""How worried are you?""How lonely do you feel"—soliciting responses on a scale of 0 to 100. Oh and also, of course, "How much have you used Facebook?" (wherein 0 meant "not at all" and 100 meant "a lot").
The study did not measure the happiness of a group of people who were not being texted five times a day to talk about how lonely they are.
The researchers noted small correlations and concluded that the more the subjects used Facebook, the worse they felt.
So, is Facebook making us lonely? Or less happy? The Atlantic put our three-cornered hat in the ring of this discussion with a cover article last spring—which, despite the cover art, was not about vampires. At the time, Stephen Marche described the distancing intimacy of social media in the context of an overall decline in social integration (In 1985, only 10 percent of Americans said they had no one with whom to discuss important matters, and 15 percent said they had only one such good friend. By 2004, 25 percent had nobody to talk to, and 20 percent had only one confidant.) Marche suggested that using technology in place of real interaction was at least partly to blame; Facebook can be, if not the drug, the enabler.