This is What Facebook is Doing to Your Happiness

A new study has linked the social networking site to depression. Here’s why—and what to do about it.

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Photo by Justin Lambert/Getty Images

We've all been there, riding to work as we blankly scroll through our Facebook feeds, catching up on our friends’ seemingly perfect lives, gorgeous boyfriends and apparently endless vacation time. And we spend a lot of time doing it: an average of 40 minutes per day, to be exact. But it might be time to reevaluate the way we interact with the social media site.

We've all heard that Facebook often promotes feelings of loneliness and alienation. Now, a new study from University of Missouri researchers, published in February’s issue of Computers of Human Behavior, shows Facebook can even lead to depression when it promotes feelings of envy among its users.

This is particularly true of people who practice “surveillance” use of the site, meaning those who compare their Facebook friends’ lives to their own, say the study’s authors. Facebook is a useful tool for those looking to stay connected with friends and family, but when users start to compare their own lives to the online lives of their friends and acquaintances, it can seriously affect their happiness.

“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,” one of the study’s authors, Margaret Duffy, said in a statement. “It is important for Facebook users to be aware of these risks so they can avoid this kind of behavior.”

So next time you hop on the site, think about how you can use it as a helpful tool instead of an instrument of self-torture. Remember, people tend to post only the best moments. But they too missed their connection, spilled a cup of coffee, and said something they regret to someone they love. After all, we’re all human.