The more you endlessly scroll on Facebook, the bigger the risk to your mental health

Facebook FB, -4.47%  chief executive Mark Zuckerberg wants to prioritize family and friends over brands. But, he says, that could result in lower user engagement. That’s potentially bad news for investors, but could be good news for excessive Facebook users.

“We’re making a major change to how we build Facebook,” Zuckerberg announced in a blog post on Thursday. “I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.” He added, “By making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.”

Over the course of a lifetime, people spend 5 years and 4 months on social media instead of interacting with the real world. That’s only second to TV.

Facebook’s 2 billion users can’t seem to get enough of themselves — or each other. People stay connected with friends and family near and far, share intimate photos, reconnect with friends from college and high school, and even rekindle relationships. Last year, the most popular social network on the planet even rolled out an artificial intelligence suicide prevention program. It aims to detect posts or live videos where someone might be expressing thoughts of suicide.

But a slew of other studies have said too much Facebook is bad for you. Here are some of the effects on excessive engagement on the site:

Don’t miss: There is one person you should never unfriend on Facebook…

So how much time do people spend on Facebook?

American users spend an average of 50 minutes a day browsing Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, the company has said. And all that time adds up. Marketing site Mediakix calculated all the time spend online for an average user with Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube GOOG, +1.51% Over the course of a person’s life, they would spend 5 years and 4 months on social media instead of interacting with the real world. That only comes second to the 7 years and 8 months people spend watching television in their lifetime.

U.S. users spend an average of 50 minutes a day on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. Sean Parker calls it a ‘social validation feedback loop.’

Last November, Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook and founder and chair of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, told Axios that Facebook is a behemoth that consumes people’s time. “It’s exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with because you’re exploiting vulnerability in human psychology,” he said, calling it a “social validation feedback loop.” Parker joked that he would likely have his Facebook account blocked, Axios reported. (Facebook did not immediately respond to request for comment.)

Also see: Instagram users: we’re the most narcissistic of them all

How does all of that endless scrolling make you feel?

“The use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being,” a 2017 study by researchers at Global Public Health at UC San Diego and Human Nature Lab at Yale University found. “These results were particularly strong for mental health; most measures of Facebook use in one year predicted a decrease in mental health in a later year. We found consistently that both liking others’ content and clicking links significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction.”

‘The use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being. These results were particularly strong for mental health.’

The researchers looked at data from more than 5,200 adults and examined how their well-being changed depending on their Facebook usage. They looked at life satisfaction, self-reported mental health, self-reported physical health, and body-mass index. They measured Facebook use in terms of liking other people’s posts, creating one’s own posts, and clicking on links. The researchers then compared this to “real-world social networks” or four friends with whom they spent their free time. Each person could pick up to eight people.

Also see: Lonely people share too much on Facebook

One study suggests Facebook alters your brain chemistry.

What does excessive Facebook use do to your personality?

This 2017 study published in “Behavioral Brain Research” looked at 62 participants over a five-week period and found that a higher daily frequency of checking Facebook was “robustly linked” with smaller gray matter in the nucleus accumbens, which is located in the area of the hypothalamus. This is one area of the brain associated with rewards and, research shows, “has been implicated in aspects of human drug addiction, including the ability of drug-paired cues to control behavior.” In other words, there’s a theory as to why some people say checking Facebook is addictive.

There is scientific studies carried out on brain activity that sheds light on why some people say endlessly checking Facebook is addictive.

That’s the question this 2014 study asked. These findings are supported by yet another study published the previous year in “Social Networking,” a quarterly academic journal. Posting, tagging and commenting on photos on Facebook were associated with respondents’ self-reported narcissism for both men and women. And posting frequent status updates and sharing links with a greater frequency were specifically linked with more narcissistic tendencies in women. The participants were rated on the Narcissistic Personality Index, a standard psychological test.

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