As fun as it is to scroll through vacation photos and read status updates on Facebook, being a passive user has some serious drawbacks. A two-part study published in the journal Social Influence found that when we don’t comment or like others posts, we feel lonely and excluded.
In the first study, which lasted two days, researchers observed Facebook users, half of whom actively participated on the site, with the other half who simply reading status updates (a behavior researchers called lurking.) After not posting any comments or likes for 48 hours, the latter group felt like outsiders and that their lives were, in fact, less meaningful.
In the second study, subjects commented on other peoples posts but received no feedback or acknowledgment. As a result, the ignored users said they felt ostracized, invisible, and less popular.
Yahoo Shine could not reach the study's lead author, Stephanie Tobin, a psychology professor at the University of Queensland in Australia, for comment. However, she wrote in her study, "People have a fundamental need to belong that can be satisfied by frequent positive interactions with others in the context of ongoing relationships. Our findings suggest that it is communication, rather than simple use, that is key in producing a sense of belonging. When sharing or feedback is restricted, belonging suffers."
Despite the fact that Facebook is an indisputable part of our lives, using the social networking site -- which averages 1 billion users per month -- can yield complicated feelings. One study found that the more time women spent on Facebook, the more fixated they became on their own appearances especially after viewing someone else's photos.
Facebook has also been linked to increased levels of relationship jealousy, narcissism, and even poor eating habits and credit card debt, due to having an inflated sense of self, which drives people to make reckless decisions. Not-so-great news, considering 84 percent of people include Facebook in their daily routine, according to Swedish research.
Discouraging? Yes. But here are three ways to use Facebook and still feel good about yourself.
Spend more time on your own page: One Cornell University study found that simply perusing your own profile (reading old statuses, flipping through photo albums) can raise self-esteem because, for better or worse, the site allows us to carefully craft the persona we wish to project to the world. And a reminder of one's idealized self makes people feel happy.
Share your opinions: Communicating may be easier to do online than in person, because without encountering the facial cues and body language of the audience, we may feel less inhibited and thus express ourselves more honestly. It's been proven in teenagers: One report published by Common Sense Media found that 20 percent of teens say social media makes them feel more confident, less shy and more outgoing.
Post at work: Facebook can be a time-suck, but if you use it wisely, it can make you better at your job. According to the Academy of Management, an association for scholars, workers who take 10-minute Facebook breaks are 16 percent more productive than those who used the Internet but didn't log on Facebook and 40 percent more productive than people who took no breaks at all. If you’re having a busy day, all the better: Spending time on Facebook provides a physiological "high," boosting relaxation and decreasing heart rate and stress levels, according to researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Milan.