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Study: Social Networks Have Negative Effect On Individual Welfare 76

Posted by Soulskill
from the tweeting-can-cause-polio dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A study of 50,000 people in Italy has found the impact of social networking on individual welfare to be "significantly negative." The researchers found that improvements in self-reported well-being occurred when online networking led to face-to-face interactions, but this effect was overwhelmed by the perceived losses in well-being (PDF) generated by interaction strictly through social networks. The researchers "highlight the role of discrimination and hate speech on social media which they say play a significant role in trust and well-being. Better moderation could significantly improve the well-being of the people who use social networks, they conclude."
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Study: Social Networks Have Negative Effect On Individual Welfare

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  • by Culture20 (968837) on Friday August 29, 2014 @06:13PM (#47787455)
    Bail! Bail!
  • I knew it all along (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2014 @06:14PM (#47787461)

    I always thought social media like Facebook and Twitter made people narcissists or made their narcissism worse. People always looks online and compare their lives to others and become depressed.

    People think I'm anti-social becoz I have no Facebook, Twitter, I don't text, etc. I don't use supermarket loyalty cards which are sold to companies like insurance companies, which then jack up your rates.

    • Sound very reasonable. However, someone up just told me Slashdot is an anti-social network, and I can't deny it has
      some of that. On the other hand, maybe that was just online categorical abuse, and I might question the well-being,
      nay ... the very being of the abusor.
      To be serious, this is all more like "chickens seem to lay eggs when it rains".

    • Social networks make being a shut-in more socially acceptable when online meetings become a substitute for the real thing. FB meetings tend to be faceless except for your liberally retouched profile photo. And who knows if you're still having an intimate chat with that person in the photo and not her husband or the FBI already? With the possible exception of celebrities, you don't need the skills of an undercover agent to impersonate somebody in FB.
  • Interesting (Score:2, Informative)

    by DaMattster (977781)
    I could see this being very plausible for someone that suffers from depression. Seeing other people happy could potentially adversely effect someone that is clinically depressed .
    • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

      by shaka999 (335100) on Friday August 29, 2014 @06:30PM (#47787543)

      Let me fix this for you ..."other people pretend to be happy"...

    • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday August 29, 2014 @06:35PM (#47787575)

      Seeing other people happy could potentially adversely effect someone that is clinically depressed .

      This is the exact opposite of what the researchers concluded: That people are adversely affected by seeing other people that are angry and hateful.

      • by mapkinase (958129)

        I haven't read other comments (I do not want to be a subject of the study :-) ) , i am sure somebody already brought the subject of correlation and causation: namely, the hypothesis that people who are already depressed and friendless tend to go to social networks.

  • “The overall effect of networking on individual welfare is significantly negative,” they conclude.

    Well, that explains a lot.

    • “The overall effect of networking on individual welfare is significantly negative,” they conclude.

      You don't say?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Nobody ever talks to anyone anymore. People don't learn to respect and value each other in the real world without face time in the real world. Trust me, as someone who never engages in conversation with people, I'm thoroughly convinced that all people are complete shit!

  • Call me cynical, but I just don't see Facebook adopting a sane moderation system, like for example anything that approximates slashcode.

    Their equivalent of "moderation" would better resemble censorship. They would simply hide the thoughts and comments they don't think you would like. Of course, it would be for your own good...

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday August 29, 2014 @06:36PM (#47787579)

      Call me cynical, but I just don't see Facebook adopting a sane moderation system, like for example anything that approximates slashcode.

      Their equivalent of "moderation" would better resemble censorship. They would simply hide the thoughts and comments they don't think you would like. Of course, it would be for your own good...

      No, they mean moderation.
      Censorship is the suppression of speech. For example: "You can't talk about Oranges, they are evil!"
      Moderation is the regulation of speech: "You can talk about Oranges, just not here. Go over there to talk about Oranges."

      Freedom of speech means you have the right to say what you want, But I have and equal right to throw you out of my house if I don't like what you have to say. You seem to want the right to force me to listen to you, and that's just as bad as any form of censorship.

      • by macraig (621737)

        There's also this dying art called self-moderation that would make forced moderation or censorship unnecessary. Too much to ask that humans rediscover that ethic, I guess.

      • Actually my ultimate fear in this scenario has nothing to do with what I can "force people to listen to" as you put it. It has everything to do with what Facebook might decide we shouldn't hear.

        And, who knows, maybe Facebook actually is capable and willing to implementing a sane, thoughtful moderation system. I just don't have faith that they ever will.

        OTOH, I wouldn't doubt for a second that they prioritized items in your newsfeed based on who paid them advertising dollars. And in the same vein, I would

        • by sudon't (580652)

          Facebook (and Google) is already deciding what you will see, based upon who they think you want to see. Or, in the case of Google, what you want to see. You can try to get more neutral search results by never signing in, and by tossing cookies regularly, (or using a different search engine), but you cannot do that with Facebook. It really annoys me that Facebook decides who I get to see in my feed. Just because I don't reply to someone's posts doesn't mean I don't want to see their posts.

      • by tepples (727027)

        Moderation is the regulation of speech: "You can talk about Oranges, just not here. Go over there to talk about Oranges."

        It becomes censorship when the moderation authority continues: "You can't talk about over there, it is evil!"

      • I think "free speech," is probably not really apropos to most social media.

        I can speak freely on Facebook and get banned. There are Terms of Service and crap that says, essentially, that Facebook gets everything and I get nothing, in the way of protected activity.

        I agreed to that when I signed on to that chicken shit outfit, right?

        Also, censorship and Facebook doesn't sound right, either. It's their property. Facebook could fold on people who don't pay anything and they don't owe us a backup or stuff.

        I can'

      • Well phrased.
      • by Bob9113 (14996)

        Censorship is the suppression of speech. For example: "You can't talk about Oranges, they are evil!"
        Moderation is the regulation of speech: "You can talk about Oranges, just not here. Go over there to talk about Oranges."

        A related problem is the "Free Speech Zones" outside political party rallies. They do not censor speech, but they do prevent you from speaking in some portion of the public square. To the extent that Facebook has become the public square, the cost to society of speech prohibition in that fo

    • by macraig (621737)

      Maybe they meant self-moderation?

    • by jc42 (318812)

      Call me cynical, but I just don't see Facebook adopting a sane moderation system, like for example anything that approximates slashcode. Their equivalent of "moderation" would better resemble censorship. They would simply hide the thoughts and comments they don't think you would like. Of course, it would be for your own good...

      It's likely that a portion of the story is something that we also see here on /.: None of them really support anything that might be called a true "discussion". The reason both here and FB and the other "social media" is the approach of having a running string of "latest" topics, which quickly scroll off the bottom and out of sight. If you don't happen to see a thread in the first hour or so, you generally won't ever see it, and won't contribute to it. So, except for a few rabid topics like religion o

    • It has nothing to do with moderation anyway. People on social networks barely interact with each other, they're reading about others like in news feeds, and they don't really do anything together. It's kind of obvious that things like (random examples) playing in a band, having a barbecue, watching a movie with friends or doing wild river rafting tend to make most people more happy than browsing web pages all day.

  • by uCallHimDrJ0NES (2546640) on Friday August 29, 2014 @06:27PM (#47787513)

    Moderation censors opinions contrary to the majority of the participants in a particular forum. This frustrates those who need to communicate critical points, which will produce an entirely new set of negative feelings and may even break the behavioral hooks that make social networking appealing.

  • How many facebook posts are "I think I married the wrong person," or "my IBS kept me up all night, couldn't stop shitting" ? It's a pathetic, edited version of people's lives that is sanitized, cherry-picked, and often outright fraudulent.

    I did the facebook thing for a year, realized what it was, and never looked back. So glad I have not wasted another hour getting sucked into that artifice.
  • Because they have known for a long time that without the face-to-face interaction, their social network would collapse. They have been running experiments on people for a while now. This study is nothing new to them. Virtual hangouts will be their fix.

  • by Narcocide (102829) on Friday August 29, 2014 @06:49PM (#47787645) Homepage

    ... and I don't even use it.

  • This was a study on Italians. It also smells suspiciously like the old "games cause violence", "comics cause moral decay", "music causes moral decay" sorts of studies. Social networks are modern, so they're suspicious, and probably evil, right?

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday August 29, 2014 @07:01PM (#47787707) Homepage

    This is fascinating. It's not the classic "people don't have social lives in the real world because they are on line too much" argument. The authors argue that following people who are "different" from you is bad for you. They write:

    "Compared to face-to-face interactions, online networks allow users to silently observe the opinions and behaviors of an immensely wider share of their fellow citizens. The psychological literature has shown that most people tend to overestimate the extent to which their beliefs or opinions are typical of those of others. There is a tendency for people to assume that their own opinions, beliefs, preferences, values, and habits are âoenormalâ and that others also think the same way that they do. This cognitive bias leads to the perception of a consensus that does not exist, or a 'false consensus' (Gamba, 2013)."

    "The more people used Facebook at one time point, the worse they felt afterwards; the more they used Facebook over two weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time. The effects found by the authors were not moderated by the size of people's Facebook networks, their perceived supportiveness, motivation for using Facebook, gender, loneliness, self-esteem, or depression, thus suggesting the existence of a direct link between SNSs' use and subjective well-being."

    This is a new result, and needs confirmation. Are homogeneous societies happier ones? Should that be replicated on line? Should efforts be made in Facebook to keep people from having "different" friends?

    • by erice (13380)

      This is a new result, and needs confirmation. Are homogeneous societies happier ones? Should that be replicated on line?
      Should efforts be made in Facebook to keep people from having "different" friends?

      That is probably not workable. One of my real life friends has discovered that some of their extended *family* express rather "unfortunate" opinions on Facebook. When they get together in real life, these opinions are muffled but on Facebook the filters come off.

      I've seen a little of this from people I have known for my many years (long before Facebook) but have been out of frequent contact with for a decade or more. They post things that make me cringe a little.

    • Hardly. It sounds to me a lot more like someone's trying to drum up a moral panic about "hate speech" and "discrimination" online.

      Besides, have the authors factored in facebook's enormous ongoing social experiments with their userbase?

  • Perhaps people more likely to be depressive -- the shut-ins, the antisocial, or those without enough money to pay for real life social gatherings -- are more likely to use social networks extensively.
  • by msobkow (48369) on Friday August 29, 2014 @10:41PM (#47788985) Homepage Journal

    If you haven't got a thick skin, get off the internet. People will disagree with you, contradict you, post things that make you uncomfortable or that you find downright revolting.

    The world is not "your oyster." People who disagree with you and that you find disagreeable have every bit as much right to be there as you. And when you consider the fact that some people find your Bible quotes and homilies offensive (as do I), it soon becomes clear that it's impossible to please everyone.

    If you only want to hang out with like-minded people, form a nice little coffee-clique of people and socialize instead of trying to find "happiness" on the 'net.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I think you missed the point. It's not that people per se are going online with thin skins, its that this is happening without people realizing, that we, as individuals have an inherent appreciation of the fact that our own beliefs and structures are well represented in others when in fact they may not be, and this causes distress in a way that's less superficial than how you represent it here (a group of thin skinned people actively going online thinking about how their way is the everyones way and then be

      • So they need to actually grow up and deal with reality like us cynics do? Yes, how insidious it'd be if I can't get lectured about precious normality by half a dozen pretentious friends/long-time-associates (each other's, not mine), one at a time, who completely contradict each other yet continue to regard each other as perfectly normal.
    • by reikae (80981)
      People without a thick skin have the same right to be on the Internet as you. In fact you said as much in the second paragraph. Out of curiosity, do you browse at -1?
      • by msobkow (48369)

        There's a difference between having a thick skin and intentionally wallowing in a sewer. :P

        • by reikae (80981)

          I don't browse at -1 either, but doesn't it mean we both choose to allow moderators to censor what we see in order to not be offended by a post's content?

          • by msobkow (48369)

            The information is still available if you choose to browse at -1, so no, it's not censorship. Now if they were deleting -1 rated posts, then there would be an issue.

        • That'd describe browsing at 5 on a great many PC topics around here. Sadly, I don't even mean the Intel chips or Windows OSes sense of "PC" anymore.
  • Being constantly hammered by a ceaseless barrage of unnecessary hostility is detrimental to one's well being?

    Whodathunkit?

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