Milken Institute School of Public Health
Gillings School of Global Public Health
If you are thinking about reasons to get a public health degree, did you know that social media could be a public health problem you’ll be considering in the future?
Two recent clinical studies about Facebook indicate that the social media giant may not be a positive influence in the lives of many people. In fact, the studies indicate that Facebook might be toxic psychologically and may contribute to the mental suffering of some users.
One expert’s theory about Facebook is based upon observations of some users posting hundreds of pictures of yourself as a means to inflate the ego, almost like a drug. Also, having hundreds or thousands of ‘friends’ on the site is also similar to a drug high. Both drugs and Facebook, according to Dr. Keith Ablow, will make you feel better about yourself by distracting you from your problems. But then you do not make real efforts to change your life for the better.
One of the studies is from the University of Michigan, and indicates that the more often young people use Facebook, the worse they feel later. Also, the more they used the site over 14 days, the less happy and satisfied they felt with their lives.
4 Signs of Facebook Addiction
Oversharing personal information on your Wall
Checking Facebook every few minutes for updates
Over concern about your status updates
Spending hours per day on Facebook
We should note that the clinical researchers ensured that the participants were not using Facebook because they already were feeling upset. According to this study, Facebook actually made them sadder.
The second study, which was done by the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, clinical researchers noted that people who share pictures on Facebook have less intimacy in their personal relationships. Researchers think that when the users try to advertise how attractive they are, they can end up alienating some friends who envy them. Friends tend to build grudges against them for their ego and behavior.
Psychologist Discusses Facebook Addiction
Top Reasons Facebook Causes Problems, According to Dr. Keith Ablow
Friends become envious of your pictures or success
People use Facebook avoid real human interaction
Users avoid their problems with Facebook
Facebook makes it easier to avoid making needed life changes
Can lead to less intimacy in your personal life
Dr. Ablow notes that he has seen dozens of people who use Facebook to duck their problems and avoid dealing with real problems in their lives. Some of these people appear to avoid real human connections with other people by making ‘friends’ online. The understandable result, he points out, is feeling isolated and sad.
Ablow believes that Facebook will eventually be recognized to be a real public health hazard. In what he claims to be a substantial way, Facebook can have a negative effect on mental health of many people. This can be particularly true for teenagers and other young people, who make up about 20% of users.
Now that we have so much data coming in from research organizations about the ill effects of Facebook, perhaps we should start to consider Facebook as truly harmful to our health, like tobacco, the doctor claims. He even speculates that social media sites could eventually face lawsuits because people believe that they lead to anxiety and mood disorders in some users.
We will need more time to evaluate the effects of Facebook on mood disorders over time. But people should be aware that spending hours online ‘socializing’ may not be as harmless as some believe.