Scrolling through Facebook can leave people feeling worse afterward, the social network has admitted.
David Ginsberg, Facebook's director of research, and Moira Burke, research scientist, made the surprising admission on Friday in a blogpost that highlighted the downsides of using the website.
They detailed research from University of Michigan, which found that students randomly assigned to read Facebook for 10 minutes were in a worse mood at the end of the day than those who talked to friends or posted on the website.
They also revealed how a study from UC San Diego and Yale found that people who clicked on about four times as many links as the average person, or who liked twice as many posts, reported worse mental health than average.
"Though the causes aren’t clear, researchers hypothesise that reading about others online might lead to negative social comparison and perhaps even more so than offline, since people’s posts are often more curated and flattering," Facebook said.
"Another theory is that the internet takes people away from social engagement in person."
But the website can boost its 2 billion users' moods too, they claimed. It all comes down to how people use the technology.
Rather than passively scrolling, like watching TV, users would feel happier if they actively interacted with their friends. Ginsberg and Burke said Facebook was concerned about the numerous studies into the negative effect social media and the internet were having on depression rates among young people and that it was actively working with psychologists to change its news feeds to improve mental well-being.
Prompts to comment on friend's birthdays and reminders of memories called "on this day" are all orchestrated to boost a feel good factor, they said.
It is demoting "clickbait" headlines and fake news despite the fact people click on those links at a high rate, and are a valuable metric for advertising revenue.
Facebook is now actively ranking friends so the "friends" users care about most are likely to appear at the top of their feed, and the comments feature has been redesigned "to foster better communications".
But user experience tweaks aside, they admitted that little is known about the impact Facebook will have on its increasingly younger audience.Facebook’s tips for spotting fake news
- Be sceptical of headlines. The headlines of fake news stories are often catchy, and contain lots of capital letters and exclamation marks. If claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they may well be.
- Look closely at the URL. Many false news stories mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site to compare the URL to established sources.
- Check the source. Ensure the story comes from a source with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from a site you have not heard of, check their “About” section to learn more.
- Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news stories often contain spelling and grammar errors, as well as an awkward looking layout.
- Check the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can do an internet search of the image to find out where it came from.
- Check the dates. Fake news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates which are wrong or have been altered.
- Check the evidence. Check the author’s sources to confirm they are accurate. Lack of evidence, or a reliance on unnamed experts may indicate false news.
- Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it could indicate that it is false.
- Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humourous articles. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story’s details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.
- Some stories are intentionally false. Think critically about the stories that you read, and only share articles which you know to be credible.
They said: "We know that people are concerned about how technology affects our attention spans and relationships, as well as how it affects children in the long run. We agree these are critically important questions, and we all have a lot more to learn.
"We’re teaming up with experts in the field to look at the impact of mobile technology and social media on kids and teens, as well as how to better support them as they transition through different stages of life."
Facebook recently launched a lighter version of its site for children under 13 - a move criticised by health secretary Jeremy Hunt who told the tech company to "stay away from my children".
Source : telegraph