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While there are many who would like to see Facebook die, it’s not going anywhere for a very long time, and I’ll tell you why: it fulfills a number of human needs that nothing else has up until now. It drives, it inspires, it irritates, it depresses, and yes, it does all of these things in ways no one yet truly understands.
Facebook is changing human psychology. Can this be a bad thing? Can it create pain and depression? Yes. Can it create inspiration and joy? Definitely.
This is what is driving social researchers up the wall — because studies surrounding Facebook show that Facebook use can make people feel bad. Yet, at the same time, it can make people feel good — and it’s this juxtaposition that makes understanding the effects of Facebook on the human psyche so difficult.
In this article, I will show you how Facebook can be good for you, and why this guarantees its survival for the foreseeable future.
#1 – The Desire To Be “In the Know”
Each reason I provide for the positive benefits of Facebook will be supported by a scientific study, and this one is no exception. There are countless studies that show Facebook makes people feel depressed and inadequate (I’ll get to those in a moment), but there is one important study that shows what really goes on inside social networks, according to the very people who use them.
In February of 2014, Pew Research published the results of its polls which revealed that the main reasons both men and women wanted to use Facebook included receiving updates and comments, and keeping up with news and social events.
This need to keep up with the latest gossip harkens back to the days of kindergarten, when no one really wanted to be the one left out of the schoolyard games.
The need to be included is inside of everyone. This desire is one of the fundamental reasons why very few people actually manage to leave Facebook for a very long. I think my one attempt to forgo Facebook “for a while” lasted barely 16 hours.
#2 – Facebook Stirs Both Happy And Sad Emotions
One of the most commonly cited studies by Facebook haters is one conducted by Oscar Ybarra and others at the University of Michigan, where researchers polled Facebook users several times throughout the day about how they were feeling and their time spent on Facebook.
What the researchers found is that people who spent more time on Facebook became less happy, and less satisfied with their life situation in general. Researchers showed that these spikes of unhappiness directly followed Facebook use.
What’s that all about? It’s sort of like the experience most kids go through when they go to a birthday party and have to sit there and watch the birthday boy or girl open present after present. There’s a sense of envy that is very human and natural — the feeling that someone else’s life is better. The grass is always greener.
The researchers then stipulated that time spent on Facebook could be directly connected to how unhappy you might feel about your own life. I don’t think that analysis is really accurate. I propose a different hypothesis.
I propose that the emotional benefit or detriment from Facebook comes from a variety of factors, including how you use the social network, and how selective you are in choosing who your Facebook friends are. Facebook provides many more opportunities to feel happy than it does to feel sad, and many more opportunities to connect with other people than when not using social networks.
One study that shows this is a 2013 poll by Pew Research that found that 57% of teens who use social networks had experiences that made them feel good, compared to 30% of teens who didn’t use social networks. It showed that just over a third of teens using social networks reported having an experience that made them feel closer to someone, compared to only 16% of teens who don’t use social networks.
So why the discrepancy between the studies? I believe it’s because researchers in the previous study were trying to oversimplify a complex, multifaceted experience. Facebook offers tremendous opportunity to have more positive and uplifting human interactions with more people than would have ever been possible before the advent of social networks.
#3 – It Satisfies Narcissistic Needs
Here’s the thing about Facebook: there’s something there for everyone. If you love yourself even a little bit, Facebook is going to make you really happy. Why? Because it’s like giving a narcissist a stage or a microphone.
One study published by Western Illinois University’s Professor Christopher Carpenter in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, described how Facebook is a breeding ground for narcissists. He found that college students who scored highly on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory test were much more active on Facebook, and had a higher number of friends as well. The study provided evidence to directly correlate the number of a person’s Facebook friends with their narcissistic tendencies.
So why do I list this as a reason Facebook will survive? Because I believe that Facebook offers something positive for everyone. There’s a little narcissist in all of us — even the shy ones in the crowd — and Facebook feeds that ego. That desire to be perceived as successful, happy, and, dare I say, superior to the collective “average”.
This need in all of us keeps us coming right back to Facebook even after attempting to forgo the social network time and time again. It will continue to drive Facebook use well into the future.
#4 – It Gives Shy People A Social Outlet
In a 2009 paper published in the journal Cyberpsychology & Behavior titled “The Influence of Shyness on the Use of Facebook in an Undergraduate Sample”, researchers found that the level of shyness expressed by individuals directly correlated with the amount of time those people used Facebook, and with how favorable they were toward the social network. Meaning, the shyer people were, the more they used and loved Facebook.
The study found that those shy people who love Facebook so much also have fewer Facebook friends than average. It would appear that shy people are much more selective about who they add to their social network groups, and their Facebook experience is more positive because of that.
This is directly contrasted with people who are more narcissistic and have hundreds upon hundreds of friends. In other words, shy people use Facebook differently than narcissists, and in turn, Facebook makes them happy as well.
In her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain claims that at least one-third of the people we all know are actually introverts. One more reason why I believe Facebook isn’t going anywhere.
Are you an introvert, or are you a self-admitted narcissist when it comes to Facebook? What do you think about the future of this massive social network? Share your thoughts and predictions in the comments section below!