An impressively large study out of Italy confirms what many American researchers have found here at home: too much time spent on social media correlates negatively with wellbeing and happiness. And while American studies have often been limited to self-selected populations of college undergraduates, the Italian research, conducted alongside the country's National Institute of Statistics, gathered data from 24,000 Italian households corresponding to 50,000 individuals.

"[The survey] found for example that...if you tend to trust people and have lots of face-to-face interactions, you will probably assess your well-being more highly. But of course interactions on online social networks are not face-to-face and this may impact the trust you have in people online. It is this loss of trust that can then affect subjective well-being rather than the online interaction itself."

Particularly troubling to researchers was the amount of discrimination and hate speech commonly found in places where people go to express themselves and gauge the opinion of others. The team concluded that better moderation of social networks could greatly improve user experience and positively affect self-assesment of their wellbeing. This is the first time that use of social networks was addressed in such a large and nationally representative study.

I previously wrote about the role of social media in creating an echo chamber for inflexible ideology instead of diversifying the marketplace of ideas--an effect exacerbated by search algorithms that return results based partially on your past browsing history.

Ultimately the power is in our hands says University of Chicago neuroscientist John Cacioppo. In his Big Think interview he explains how we can use technology to create meaningful social interaction:


Read more at MIT Technology Review

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