We all know that compulsively checking Facebook everyday may not be the healthiest thing in the world, but it turns out it may be doing more damage than we thought.
According to new research, if you are exposed to homophobic content on social networks it will threaten your well-being by eroding your trust in the rest of society.
Scientists from the Sapienza University of Rome and the Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques du Grand-Duché du Luxembourg surveyed data from 50,000 people in 24,000 Italian households which looked at internet and social network use, as well as self-reported levels of happiness and self-esteem.
Social networks increased the risk of being exposed to ‘offensive behaviors’, they found, which could have a harmful effect on people.
'In online discussions with unknown others, individuals more easily indulge in aggressive and disrespectful behaviors,' the researchers said.
'Online networks also are a fertile ground for spreading harmful, offensive, or controversial contents often lying at the verge between free speech and hate speech.'
The results also suggested seeing such comments, as well as racist or misogynistic posts, decreased people’s happiness and general satisfaction with their lives overall.
As part of the research, an experiment was done using a group of 82 people who were sent text messages five times a day and were asked to reply explaining how they felt at that moment, and how satisfied they were in their life.
If they used Facebook, the results were more likely to be on the unhappy end of the scale.
'On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection,' said Ethan Kross, a social psychologist at the University of Michigan.
'But rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result – it undermines it.'