If you like that girl’s photo, might as well also post a comment on it because you may just make her really happy.
A new study has claimed that just two Facebook comments a day over a month from close friends can improve a person’s feelings of well-being and satisfaction with life just as much as getting married or having a baby.
However, passively reading posts or one-click feedback such as “likes” do not have these positive effects.
“We’re not talking about anything that’s particularly labour-intensive. This can be a comment that’s just a sentence or two,” said Moira Burke, a research scientist at Facebook.
“The important thing is that someone such as a close friend takes the time to personalise it,” said Burke, who earned a PhD at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in the US.
“The content may be uplifting, and the mere act of communication reminds recipients of the meaningful relationships in their lives,” she added.
Sixty comments from close friends in a month were linked to increases in users’ psychological well-being as large as those associated with major life events, the study found.
The findings run counter to many previous studies based on user surveys, which have shown that time spent on social media is linked to greater likelihood of loneliness and depression.
“You’re left to wonder – is it that unhappy people are using social media, or is social media affecting happiness?” said Robert Kraut, a professor at CMU.
The new study resolved this “chicken-or-egg” dilemma by using Facebook logs to examine counts of participants’ actual Facebook activity over a period of months.
In addition to being more accurate than relying on people’s recollections of their online activity via commonly used surveys, this enabled researchers to distinguish between types of activity – posting, passive reading, comments, likes, etc – and whether the interactions were with people whom the users cared about or with lesser acquaintances.
“It turns out that when you talk with a little more depth on Facebook to people you already like, you feel better,” Kraut said.
“This suggests that people who are feeling down may indeed spend more time on social media, but they choose to do so because they’ve learned it makes them feel better,” Burke said.
The study was based on 1,910 Facebook users from 91 countries. Each agreed to take a monthly survey for three months and to have their responses joined with de-identified counts of their Facebook behaviour from the month before each survey.
By considering mood and behaviour over time, the study showed that Facebook interactions with friends predicted improvements in such measures of well-being as satisfaction with life, happiness, loneliness and depression.
The research method allowed them to rule out possibilities that happier people simply use Facebook more or that well-being predicts changes in how people use the medium.
The study appears in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.