By now, you’ve probably heard about the NIH study into the impact of Facebook on people’s mental health. Researchers from USCD and Yale examined the data from 5,000+ study participants and concluded that there is a causal relationship between Facebook use and depression.
What does that mean? A causal relationship is one in which a change in one measured factor results in a change in other measured factors. In this study, researchers found that increased Facebook usage led to users having an increased likelihood of diminished future well-being. In other words, use Facebook now and feel bad later.
People feel bad about themselves when they compare the pictures their friends post on Facebook to their own lives. Additionally, increased online interaction tends to imply less in-person interaction and a more sedentary lifestyle. Both diminished interpersonal interaction and a sedentary lifestyle are very common in people with depression, and we’ve known this; what’s new is the assertion that Facebook is the causal agent of both behavioral choices.
Will this report lead to people using Facebook less? We highly doubt it. The social media experience is engineered to trigger addictive behavioral patterns in the brain. The majority of Americans check Facebook before they do anything else – even get out of bed in the morning. Even if every scientist in the world stood up in agreement that Facebook increased one’s likelihood of becoming depressed, the odds are better than good that news would be tuned out, dismissed as fake news, or otherwise ignored.
If you’re worried about Facebook’s impact on your customers’ well-being, there is something you can do. Create the in-person socialization opportunities researchers have identified as being in short supply. Events like book signings, parties, community fundraisers and even sales give people a chance to put down their phones and talk to other people face-to-face. It’s a great way to familiarize your community with your business, and you can build brand recognition and gain new customers. Just make sure you promote these events heavily – especially on Facebook, where your customers will be sure to see it!