A research team from Regis University found that certain Facebook behaviors cause higher rates of upper respiratory infections in college students.
Facebook users who felt stressed or anxious scrolling through their news feeds had twice as many infections compared to users who did not feel anxiety being on the social media platform, the researchers discovered.
"People that are reporting anxiety about using Facebook are the type of user who will be unclear whether or not someone else's post was joking or not," Professor Jay Campisi, head of the research team said. "So if they post a picture of themselves and people are putting comments, they're constantly trying to decipher and spend time and lose sleep about 'was that a joking comment or was it serious?'"
But it's not the correlation between anxiety and health issues that surprised the research team. It's who they imagined the anxious Facebook user to be.
"We predicted that people who had the most Facebook friends, that had the best social interactions online would be the healthiest...but in fact, we found the opposite," Campisi said. "The people who had the largest amount of Facebook friends actually reported the most anxiety and the most stress and those people had the worst health out of anyone. It was fairly surprising to us initially."
Campisi's team is made up of all undergraduates. The study was heavily driven by their interests in social media.
"They all use Facebook and Instagram all of the time, and so they were sort of reading the literature about these face-to-face interactions and sort of the natural question for them was, 'Well what about us? what about interactions that we have with friends and with our partners and with our family members online?'" Campisi said.
Campisi believes the results are a cautionary tale.
"If you're looking to feel less lonely or feel happier or have better health, probably staring at a phone or computer screen is not the way to go," Campisi said.
Campisi and his research team will now study the effects of other social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.