Apparently this is the best social media platform for your emotional well-being.
There are plenty of studies which seemingly prove that getting married, or having a baby, instils us with an enormous sense of well-being and satisfaction with our lives (aka the “smug married couples” that Bridget Jones so often shakes her head over).
However, according to an intriguing study, using one of the world’s most popular social media platforms can have the exact same effect.
That’s right; personal interaction on Facebook can seriously boost our emotional well-being, although receiving mere ‘likes’ doesn’t quite cut the mustard. Instead, it’s all about those moments when the people we know and care about write personalised posts or comments on our photos and newsfeed.
Speaking with Eurekalert, Moira Burke – a research scientist specialising in human-computer interaction – explained that the comments don’t even have to be long, they just have to be tailored to suit the person reading them.
“We’re not talking about anything that’s particularly labour-intensive,” she said. “This can be a comment that’s just a sentence or two.
“The important thing is that someone such as a close friend takes the time to personalise it. The content may be uplifting, and the mere act of communication reminds recipients of the meaningful relationships in their lives.”
Burke and her team of researchers analysed 1,910 Facebook users from 91 countries, asking each of them to fill in a survey at the end of each month.
After analysing their responses, alongside their Facebook behaviour, Burke discovered that online interactions with friends predicted improvements in such measures of well-being as satisfaction with life, happiness, loneliness and depression.
In fact, her team learned that just 60 comments from close friends per month can have as much of a positive effect on our psychological well-being as major life events, which suggests that, if you’re feeling down, you should get thee hence to social media.
This news may come as something of a surprise to many, especially when you consider how many articles there are about the benefits of digital detoxes, the rampant misogyny present on social media platforms, and the rise of online braggarts.
And let’s not forget that a study by University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross last year found a direct correlation between time spent on the social media site and feelings of dissatisfaction, loneliness and isolation.
However Burke has a theory to explain why so many unhappy people are on social media – and it sort of makes sense.
Read more: The 10 simple steps to a happier lifestyle
“People who are feeling down may indeed spend more time on social media,” she explained, “but they choose to do so because they've learned it makes them feel better.
“They're reminded of the people they care about in their lives.”
The results of the experiment suggest that, when it comes to cheering ourselves up, there’s nothing better than spending time with those we love most.
And that's the same even if we have to settle for a digital, rather than an organic, version of our best friend.
Read the full report at eurekalert.org.
This article was originally published in 2016.