Facebook exposes us to “offensive behaviour and hate speech”, giving rise to feelings of depression and distrust, according to a new study.
Researchers at the Sapienza University of Rome looked at the way in which 50,000 Italian people use social networks, and compared the results with the individuals' reported levels of happiness and self-esteem.
In their report, called Online Networks and Subjective Well-being, they describe a “significantly negative correlation between online networking and well-being”.
The racist, misogynistic and homophobic content users were exposed to on Facebook threatened their happiness and negatively influenced their perception of people in real life. Social networks, the researchers say, can cause a person to lose trust in society.
“In online discussions with unknown others, individuals more easily indulge in aggressive and disrespectful behaviours. Online networks also are a fertile ground for spreading harmful, offensive, or controversial contents often lying at the verge between free speech and hate speech,” the report explains. And it doesn't even mention the sense of disillusionment caused by being forced to scroll through at dozens of ice bucket challenges...
It is not just Facebook that elicits these negative reactions – the trend spans across all social networks, according to the study. But Facebook remains by far the most widely used network among young people throughout the world.
comScore's Mobile Metrix report for the US in June 2014 revealed that over three quarters of people aged 18-34 used Facebook on their mobiles, which was considerably more than any other social network. Instagram came second highest at 43.1 per cent.