Is Facebook usage bad for mental health?

Blavatnik ICRC researchers Nurit Sternberg, Roy Luria, and Gal Sheppes publish new findings.

Is Facebook usage bad for mental health? Existing studies provide mixed results, and direct evidence for neural underlying moderators is lacking. We suggest that being able to filter social-network information from accessing working memory is essential to preserve limited cognitive resources to pursue relevant goals. Accordingly, among individuals with impaired neural social-network filtering ability, enhanced social-network usage would be associated with negative mental health. Specifically, participants performed a novel electrophysiological paradigm that isolates neural Facebook filtering ability. Participants’ actual Facebook behavior and anxious symptomatology were assessed. Confirming evidence showed that enhanced Facebook usage was associated with anxious symptoms among individuals with impaired neural Facebook filtering ability. Although less robust and tentative, additional suggestive evidence indicated that this specific Facebook filtering impairment was not better explained by a general filtering deficit. These results involving a neural social-network filtering moderator, may help understand for whom increased online social-network usage is associated with negative mental health.

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