Reading Facebook posts about your friends’ beautiful babies, delicious meals and invigorating jobs can seriously damage your mental health.
A University of Missouri study found that ‘stalking’ old friends or exes and reading titbits about other people’s enviable lifestyles can lead to depression.
The researchers said that depression tended to hit users who stalked friends to see how they were doing - and felt envy as they read other people’s posts.
Specifically, people who use the site for ‘surveillance’ - seeing how exes, or old friends are doing in life, tended to exhibit symptoms of depression.
Co-author Professor Margaret Duffy said, ‘We found that if Facebook users experience envy of the activities and lifestyles of their friends on Facebook, they are much more likely to report feelings of depression.
The study analysed the responses of 700 young Facebook users to a questionnaire about how they used the network and how it made them feel.
‘Facebook can be a very positive resource for many people, but if it is used as a way to size up one's own accomplishments against others, it can have a negative effect. It is important for Facebook users to be aware of these risks so they can avoid this kind of behavior when using Facebook.’
Facebook can be a fun and healthy activity if users take advantage of the site to stay connected with family and old friends and to share interesting and important aspects of their lives.
‘However, if Facebook is used to see how well an acquaintance is doing financially or how happy an old friend is in his relationship - things that cause envy among users - use of the site can lead to feelings of depression.’