Great holiday, fantastic party and incredible food, everyone shows their life in the best light on social networking apps like Facebook and Twitter, but researchers have found that people who use these apps passively are in danger of developing depressive symptoms.
“Being confronted by social information on the Internet – which is selective and only positive and favourable – leads to lower self esteem,” said study lead author Phillip Ozimek from the Ruhr University Bochum.
As low self esteem is closely related to depressive symptoms, researchers consider this short-term effect to be a potential source of danger.
For the study, published in the journal Behaviour and Information Technology, the researchers interviewed over 800 people about their use of Facebook, their tendency to compare themselves with others, their level of self esteem and the occurrence of depressive symptoms.
They found a positive correlation between passive Facebook use — not posting pictures — and depressive symptoms when subjects have an increased need to make social comparisons of their abilities.
“So, when I have a strong need to compare and keep seeing in my News Feed that other people are having great holidays, making great deals and buying great, expensive things while everything I see out of my office window is grey and overcast, it lowers my self-esteem,” Ozimek said.
“And if I experience this day after day, over and over again, this can promote greater depressive tendencies over the long term,” he added.
For the study, the researchers carried out one experimental and two questionnaire studies.
Overall, the researchers were able to show that it is not the use of social networks that generally and directly leads to or is related to depression, but that certain preconditions and a particular type of use increase the risk of depressive tendencies.
According to the study, private and professional social networks can promote higher levels of depression if users mainly use them passively to socially compare themselves with others, these comparisons have a negative impact on self esteem.