In other words, the world of constant connectivity and media, as embodied by Facebook, is the social network’s worst enemy: in every study that distinguished the two types of Facebook experiences—active versus passive—people spent, on average, far more time passively scrolling through newsfeeds than they did actively engaging with content. This may be why general studies of overall Facebook use, like Kross’s of Ann Arbor residents, so often show deleterious effects on our emotional state. Demands on our attention lead us to use Facebook more passively than actively, and passive experiences, no matter the medium, translate to feelings of disconnection and boredom.
While these studies are interesting, I am not really sure that we can draw any relevant conclusions from them. There are a few things, first of all, my statistics professor’s voice is ringing in my head, “your sample size should be at least 100 for it to be worth paying attention to.” Or draw any type of generalized conclusion from.
Secondly, what about location? The baseline emotions of the sample group could very well be determined by location, cultural and social contexts. Not to mention behavior patterns and levels of engagement will vary across different locales, groups and ages.
Lastly, why do we care if Facebook makes us unhappy? Will this deter people from using it? No, probably not. Will it change the way that branded content gets pushed? Doubtful. While Facebook, as a form of interaction, is somewhat novel (though hardly at all), it’s effects on our emotional health and psyche will likely be no different from the effects of normal, in-person social interaction. Digitally-mediated social networks are becoming normalized methods of communication and interaction. Yes, there is a distinction between active and passive interactions, but that is no different from when you are a shy kid, standing in the corner at the party or the gregarious one doing a keg stand in the middle of it.