Can Facebook Be Harmful to Psychological Health?

Young people have access to avenues of communication and entertainment that previous generations never had. The internet has opened up a new world of social activities, games, and other forms of online interaction that was not available in years past. The unending stream of information available on the internet and its 24-hour-a-day access makes it highly attractive to young people. Facebook in particular has become a favorite way for young people to keep in touch with family and friends, share pictures, and update the world on their thoughts. The majority of young people today use the internet and social media on a regular basis, but at what cost? Although there has been some research conducted demonstrating the negative effects of internet addiction, less is known about how Facebook use specifically affects young adults’ psychological well-being through disrupted sleep.

Isabella Wolniczak of the School of Medicine at the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas in Peru recently led a study examining how Facebook use affected sleep in young people. Sleep is critically important and helps improve cognitive and physical functioning. When sleep is impaired, it can negatively affect not only mood and daytime alertness, but also academic performance, social interactions, and overall well-being. People who develop internet dependence may isolate and refrain from real-world activities, which can increase their risk of negative outcomes.

Wolniczak looked at the Facebook use and sleep patterns of 418 students and found that more than half of them had sleep problems. Of all the students who used Facebook, 8.6% were found to have a dependence on Facebook, similar to internet addiction. This meant that those dependent on Facebook were 1.3 times more likely to have impaired sleep than those who used Facebook casually. The most significant negative consequences of Facebook use was found in daytime functioning. Other risks not explored in this study include excessive exposure to negative material, online predator contact and lack of privacy through public domains. Overall, the results of Wolniczak’s study show that young adults with Facebook dependency, and even many casual users, are experiencing sleep disturbances as a result. She added, “We suggest further studies to corroborate these findings and develop strategies to moderate the use of this social network and to improve sleep quality in this population.”

Wolniczak, I., Cáceres-DelAguila, J.A., Palma-Ardiles, G., Arroyo, K.J., Solís-Visscher, R., et al. (2013). Association between Facebook dependence and poor sleep quality: A study in a sample of undergraduate students in Peru. PLoS ONE 8(3): e59087. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059087

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  • Kelley

    April 26th, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    This is so relevant to me right now. It seems like everyone has these perfect lives and mine is so,so,so,so,so,so boring!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But, I just can’t quit going on there even though it makes me feel bad. Sigh.

  • Gerald H

    April 26th, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    i just read somethin else that said young people don’t use facebook no more they use something called instagram instead which looks like a bunch of pictures to me.

    anyway i can’t even figure out facebook so you can forget about the new instagram thing.

    being old ain’t for sissies, that’s for sure.

  • Hank

    April 26th, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    Oh, yeah, disrupted sleep for sure. Just caught my daughter talking to some boy at 10:45 on a school night. I’d say her sleep was disrupted.

  • Pierre

    April 26th, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    “The most significant negative consequences of Facebook use was found in daytime functioning.”

    Well, why didn’t they explain what they meant by this? What were the negative consequences? What happened with daytime functioning?

    What I’ve seen with negative consequences are kids being mean to each other on Facebook. I just don’t understand why parents don’t pull the plug on this. Kids can get on Facebook with their cell phones and parents are scared to death to take their kids’ cell phones. We didn’t have cell phones when we were younger and we survived. I think they do more harm than good.

  • Jana P

    April 26th, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    I am curious to know how addiction to Facebook is defined. If it’s a certain number of hours per day, a percentage of downtown, etc. I’d just be interested to know. So I can see if I’m addicted even though I’m 32. Haha.

  • Killian

    April 26th, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    Is this really about Facebook or just an addiction to always being online and facebook just happens to be their site of choice?

  • mandy t

    April 27th, 2013 at 12:36 AM

    earlier the most popular kid in school was the one who could play a sport the best or someone who had a it is the kid who is the coolest on facebook.its also created a sense of oh-I-am-so-uncool among so many people I see kids being depressed just because they saw someone else’s page with a lot more activity or likes than their own!

  • doRie

    April 27th, 2013 at 5:56 AM

    No matter how plugged in I am during the day, when it comes to sleep, no amount of looking at the computer screen will keep me from getting the rest that I need. Are there really adults who let this happen? I can see it with younger kids and teens but as I have gotten older sleep sometimes trumps everything else!

  • milton

    April 29th, 2013 at 1:19 AM

    can Facebook be harmful psychologically? yes but only if your being immature. ive seen so many fights in schools because Of something that was posted online or otherwise related to Facebook. thats just so immature!

    age doesn’t really matter but if your mature these things will not happen. these will not happen if you know where to draw the line.

  • Kate y

    April 29th, 2013 at 4:50 AM

    I guess there have been some times whn I have read others’ statuses and it makes me kinda jealous. How can they afford to do all of this stuff when all I feel like I do is slave away day after day and never make a dent? That’s when I decided that I needed to make a change, and not let these posts upset me like that. I now read and scroll through a couple of times a day just to look for the funny stuff and try really hard not to let the psotings of others get me down. If I sense that this is happening I just tune out for a few days. I don’t want to seem shallow but it can get a little discouraging sometimes.

  • Sam

    April 30th, 2013 at 3:54 AM

    It is all well and good to think that you can get your kids to break free from being on technology all the time, but I am just not sure that this is a possibility any more.

    And do we really wnat it to be? We are already so far behind in math and science. I keep hoping that all of this will actually in some way help to raise this ability and performance in our students.

  • Mimi

    April 30th, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    Well I know half the people who have perfect facebooks with terrible lives. In fact, the more prefect someone appears.. The greater the chance of serious issues going on.
    I know this from experience.

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