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Personal communication on Facebook can boost your life satisfaction

Tue 6 Sep 2016

Facebook interaction

According to research at Facebook and Carnegie Mellon, personalised comments on Facebook can have a major effect on a person’s well-being, compared to one-click interactions, such as ‘likes’, which do not generate the same levels of satisfaction.

The researchers found that personal posts can lead to just as much positivity as experienced during life events such as getting married or having a baby.

‘We’re not talking about anything that’s particularly labor-intensive,’ said research lead and Facebook human-computer interaction analyst Moira Burke in today’s release. ‘This can be a comment that’s just a sentence or two. The important thing is that someone such as a close friend takes the time to personalize it. The content may be uplifting, and the mere act of communication reminds recipients of the meaningful relationships in their lives.’

The team found in the study, The relationship between Facebook use and well-being depends on communication type and tie strength, that receiving around 60 comments from close Facebook friends in a month was sufficient to increase a user’s psychological well-being up to levels associated with major life events.

Professor Robert Kraut, working alongside Burke, noted that the findings deviate from previous research and user surveys which typically reveal that more time spent on Facebook can lead to depression and loneliness.

‘You’re left to wonder – is it that unhappy people are using social media, or is social media affecting happiness?’ said Kraut.

The Carnegie project aimed to unravel this dilemma by using Facebook logs to analyse counts of users’ activity over a three-month period. All respondents had given informed consent to participate, and their data was anonymised, with no communication content analysed. The final study was based on 1,910 Facebook users from over 90 countries, recruited online via Facebook ads.

The data allowed the researchers to distinguish between different types of activity; passive reading, posting, liking and commenting etc. They were also able to deduce if the interactions were with close friends or lesser acquaintances.

‘It turns out that when you talk with a little more depth on Facebook to people you already like, you feel better,’ Kraut explained. ‘That also happens when people talk in person.’

Burke suggested that this could explain why people who are already feeling low tend to spend more time on social media – they have learned that it makes them feel better.


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