Scrolling through Facebook can leave people feeling worse afterward, the social network has admitted.
They detailed research from University of Michigan, which found that students randomly assigned to read Facebook for 10 minutes were in a worse mood at the end of the day than those who talked to friends or posted on the website.
They also revealed how a study from UC San Diego and Yale found that people who clicked on about four times as many links as the average person, or who liked twice as many posts, reported worse mental health than average.
Though the causes aren’t clear, researchers hypothesise that reading about others online might lead to negative social comparison and perhaps even more so than offline, since people’s posts are often more curated and flattering, Facebook said.
Another theory is that the internet takes people away from social engagement in person.
But the website can boost its 2 billion users’ moods too, they claimed. It all comes down to how people use the technology.
Rather than passively scrolling, like watching TV, users would feel happier if they actively interacted with their friends.
Ginsberg and Burke said Facebook was concerned about the numerous studies into the negative effect social media and the internet were having on depression rates among young people and that it was actively working with psychologists to change its news feeds to improve mental well-being.
Prompts to comment on friend’s birthdays and reminders of memories called on this day are all orchestrated to boost a feel good factor, they said.
It is demoting clickbait headlines and fake news despite the fact people click on those links at a high rate, and are a valuable metric for advertising revenue.
Facebook is now actively ranking friends so the friends users care about most are likely to appear at the top of their feed, and the comments feature has been redesigned to foster better communications.
But user experience tweaks aside, they admitted that little is known about the impact Facebook will have on its increasingly younger audience.
They said: We know that people are concerned about how technology affects our attention spans and relationships, as well as how it affects children in the long run. We agree these are critically important questions, and we all have a lot more to learn.
We’re teaming up with experts in the field to look at the impact of mobile technology and social media on kids and teens, as well as how to better support them as they transition through different stages of life.
Facebook recently launched a lighter version of its site for children under 13 a move criticised by health secretary Jeremy Hunt who told the tech company to stay away from my children.