In The Relationship Between Facebook Use and Well-Being Depends on Communication Type and Tie Strength, authors Moira Burke and Robert E. Kraut conducted a study in order to determine whether there is a relationship between online communication and the well-being of Facebook users.
The authors define psychological well-being as “positive mental health- such as positive affect, cognitive evaluation of one’s life as satisfying, having a meaningful purpose, or good mental health.” Some might interpret psychological well being as “the absence of negative mental health, including anxiety, loneliness, depression, and stress.” No matter how you define psychological well-being, all can agree that there are different ways to achieve well-being.
Burke and Kraut specify the five ways in which online communication on social networking sites (SNS) can benefit one’s mental health. They are: the need to belong, relationship maintenance, signals of relational investment, social support, and social comparison. All humans have a need to belong to some group and social media breaks down geographical boundaries and enables people to feel that sense of belonging no matter where they are in the world. In addition, social media helps maintain relationships between individuals. The authors found that there were positive effects on well-being among those who had more “effortful” conversations on SNS. The social support mechanism looks at how strong the ties are between individuals. Lastly, social comparison proposes that SNS can be harmful to an individual’s mental health.
After collecting research from their 1,910 opt-in Facebook users, the authors found that the “theories of social support, maintenance, and relational investment all predict that well-being improves with composed communication, while both theories of social support and belonging predict that strong-tie communication is crucial.” Unfortunately, they were unable to find any evidence supporting the thesis that examining or “stalking” other users’ accounts and posts could lead to depression or loneliness. Although I do see the many benefits of social networking sites such as Facebook, I often think social media does more harm than good. I think that the authors should have focused their studies on the negative effects on an individual’s well-being so that we can make improvements to social media as a whole.