A study conducted on large data by an institute in Oxford in the UK found “no evidence that Facebook has a negative impact on the well-being” of its users, contradicting much other research.
The Oxford Internet Institute (OII) study published on Wednesday, which was based on “almost a million people in 72 countries” and data spanning 12 years, found “no evidence ‘that the use of Facebook’has been consistently linked with a decline in well-being“, and on the contrary finds in certain cases positive effects.
A positive impact on mental health?
The researchers cross-referenced data “existing well-being surveys from the Gallup Institute of Studies, which cover nearly one million people between 2008 and 2019, with figures from Facebook on the number of members of their network worldwide” – currently nearly three billion.
The press release accompanying the study states that “Facebook was involved in the research, but only to provide data and did not commission or fund the study”. The researchers started their work before the pandemic and it took “over two years to get critical data from Facebook”.
In particular, the researchers found a positive impact between “Facebook use and well-being higher among young people across different countries. A small but significant effect.”
The authors note that Facebook, if it remains the dominant social network, is not necessarily everywhere and is not the most used by adolescents in the United States in particular. Their conclusions cannot therefore “necessarily generalize to all platforms” on line.
Social networks and well-being
“Our findings should help guide the debate around social media toward more empirical research”, assures Matt Vuore, one of the directors of the study. This study runs counter to many other academic works, such as one published by the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology -(MIT) almost a year ago, which concluded that the use of social networks, and in particular Facebook, “brings a decline in mental health”.
In 2021, engineer and ex-Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked more than 20,000 pages of internal documents, hammering before various parliaments that the social network put profits before the safety of its users.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, had denied these accusations, its boss Mark Zuckerberg having then spoken of“coordinated effort to selectively use internal documents to paint a false picture of our company”. The group faces numerous lawsuits accusing it of having negative effects on the mental health of children and adolescents, just like other platforms such as Youtube or TikTok.