Being plugged into the wall all the time is generally regarded as unhealthy living. However, as it becomes the norm, so does studying its effects on life. And in the last ten years, numerous studies have come out linking Facebook usage to narcissism or taking selfies to mental disorders etc. And the conventional wisdom supports that narrative; people always bad mouth Millenials for living their lives online and becoming more and more alienated from the real world (disconnecting more than connecting). Yet, a new study claims that using Facebook can actually be good for you in a different way, like extending-your-lifespan good for you.
A study published in the journal: “Proceedings of the National Academy Of Sciences” shows that those who have a rich offline social life as revealed by their Facebook pages live longer. Now this doesn’t exactly contradict conventional wisdom (no one says that people who post pictures of their food and check in at every restaurant tend to die earlier) but it does give the other side more points. The study specifically said that those who received and accepted more friend requests and posted more photos and had a moderate online presence live longer.
The study looked at 12 million Facebook users, aged 27 to 71. It tracked their longevity via the California Department of Public Health. It was led by William Hobbs, at the time a student at the University of California, San Diego.
The study only looked at Facebook and people from one U.S. State (California), though, so the findings are suspect. What about Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Tumblr? They’re not as ubiquitous as Facebook but they have hundreds of millions of users worldwide. The study’s conclusions could easily be turned on their heads, e.g. healthier people are more active on Facebook. There’s also the fact that two of the researchers have ties to Facebook. William Hobbs interned at the social network and Moira Burke, a scientist on the study, is a Facebook research scientist. Finally, the study looks at correlations, not causations and equating the two is a slippery slope to nonsense.
So don’t start posting on Facebook like crazy to extend your lifespan. Remember, the study linked posting on Facebook about real world activity to longevity, not just ranting about the latest Marvel movie or liking pages and commenting on News stories. Also, sending out friend requests isn’t linked to longevity, accepting them is. So don’t start seeking out people to be friends with.
There is some great news, though, connecting and having relationships online has been linked to a reduced mortality rate from heart disease, drug overdose, and suicide.