Facebook ‘likes’ found to have little influence on wellbeing

“Like” this article? We might “like” a lot of things on Facebook, but giving or receiving “likes” on the social media platform does little or nothing to influence our actual wellbeing.

A new study involving students at University College Cork has found that Facebook likes do not predict depression among users and overall, do not have any impact on how we feel.

The study ‘Life Vs Likes: The Influence of Receiving Facebook Likes on Social Capital and Depression’ involved 189 undergraduate students completing an online survey, followed up by focus groups. Those who completed the survey were aged 18 to 58. The study looked at social capital, or connections between people and social networks.

Facebook has 655 million daily users and previous research found that approximately 44% ‘like’ content posted by their friends at least once a day, while another study indicated that people care more about who likes their posts than the number of likes a post gets.

However, analysis of the responses found “Facebook likes do not predict online bridging social capital”, and was deemed less of a factor in that type of connectedness than religion, spirituality, happiness or depression.

It also found Facebook likes do not predict online social bonding or social capital. Finally, analysing the results also found that Facebook likes do not predict depression.

A follow-up focus group of 12 students saw slightly different themes emerge: “The main findings showed that there appeared to be a sense of internal conflict among participants with regard to caring about likes. At moments throughout the online focus groups, it seemed as though participants were trying to portray an image of not caring about receiving likes.

“However, there were other moments during which the participants appeared to undermine this sense of carelessness, suggesting that likes do matter to them, but they were ashamed to admit it.”

It also concluded that “offline interactions appeared to have a much stronger influence on the social capital and well-being of participants”. It found age has a significant influence and “as one got older, likes became less important”.

The study was conducted by Hannah McAuliffe under the supervision of Dr Mike Murphy of the School of Applied Psychology at UCC.

The results echo those of a study by the University of South Wales, showing like or heart notifications on Facebook and Twitter do not affect happiness.


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