Facebook Lurking Is Making You Feel Miserable, Study Says

Another study has proved what we already knew but didn’t want to admit — Facebook ‘lurking’ is making you miserable.

It’s becoming common knowledge that scouring social media for hours on end isn’t doing us any favours, but is that just a recognizable feeling many of us can relate to, or is there some science behind it? A new study puts power behind the statement: Get off Facebook!


Facebook “lurking” was found by the University of Copenhagen, along with regular use of various other social media platforms, to harm emotional well-being and overall satisfaction with life. The study discovered, however, that simply taking a break from social media significantly and positively affects overall well-being.

The team conducted a week-long experiment with 1,095 participants in Denmark in late 2015, in which the participants were divided into two groups. The first group used Facebook as usual, while the second group stopped using the social media platform altogether for one week. Upon comparing the two groups, the researchers discovered that the break improved two aspects of well-being the most: positive life satisfaction and positive emotions. What’s more, this impact was overwhelmingly greater for those who  “envy others on Facebook,” for “passive users,” and for “heavy Facebook users.”

If you’re a regular Facebook user, and are concerned you’re going to have to quit cold turkey, the researchers urge you not to worry too much about their findings. In fact, they say making adjustments in your usage behaviour could be enough to bring on positive change:

To make things clear, if one is a heavy Facebook user, one should use Facebook less to increase one’s well-being. And if one tends to feel envy when on Facebook, one should avoid browsing the sections (or specific friends) on Facebook causing this envy. And if one uses Facebook passively, one should reduce this kind of behavior. Due to habits, practicalities, and potential “forecasting errors,” it may be difficult to change one’s way of using Facebook. If this is the case, one should consider quitting Facebook for good.

A past study on the aforementioned “forecasting errors” found that, while people think they’ll feel better after using Facebook, they actually feel worse, and suggested this poor mood may be the result of having wasted time.

An additional study out of Lancaster University in England analyzed studies from 14 countries to better understand the connection between Facebook usage and depression. The researchers noted that the “relationship between online social networking and symptoms of depression may be complex and associated with multiple psychological, social, behavioral and individual factor.” The study conlcuded that negative comparisons with other Facebook users were predictive of depression due to the increase of rumination.

Likewise, frequent posting on Facebook was also associated with increased rumination and depression. Women were more likely to become depressed than men due to Facebook usage, as were people with neurotic personalities. In addition, Facebook users were more at risk of depression if they displayed the following:

  • Felt envy after observing others
  • Accepted former partners as Facebook friends
  • Made negative social comparisons
  • Made frequent negative status updates

The reality is, people typically want to feel good after everything they do, but sometimes get lost in the moment, and hope for a positive outcome nonetheless. When it comes to Facebook, try using it in moderation, so you can avoid getting caught up in the detrimental comparisons. After all, what we’re seeing online is not the whole picture of a person’s life.