Your Facebook friends can actually cheer you up

A study (conveniently co-written by Facebook) has found that “personal interactions on Facebook can have a major impact on a person’s feelings of well-being and satisfaction with life just as much as getting married or having a baby.” That’s right: it seems that clicking “Like” on a picture of someone’s soup is akin to the eternal bond of love that is marriage or the miracle of biology and coexistence that is the creation of human life.

Now before we go snort into our copies of No Logo let’s take a closer look at the study. Produced by Carnegie Mellon professor Robert Kraut and CMU alum and current research scientist at Facebook Moira Burke, the study found that reading deep and heartfelt notes from people you know on Facebook is what really revs up the old pleasure sensors. Simply getting a like or scrolling past an ad for slippers won’t cut it.

What needs to happen is your friend or loved one has to comment on your stuff. Lots of times.

“This can be a comment that’s just a sentence or two,” said Burke. “The important thing is that someone such as a close friend takes the time to personalize it. The content may be uplifting, and the mere act of communication reminds recipients of the meaningful relationships in their lives.”

It takes sixty comments from close friends to improve a person’s psychological well-being. The findings also caused the researchers to question whether the claims that social media caused loneliness and depression were true. Apparently, under the right circumstances, they aren’t.

The study watched 1,910 Facebook users in 91 countries. Each took a monthly survey and Facebook tracked their usage, albeit anonymously. They were able to assess levels of passive reading, posting, and commenting.

The study found that actual interaction helped improve well-being and could even reduce loneliness and depression. While I doubt any psychologist will prescribe a few hours of Facebook every night, I hope this does give passive users pause: you could be making a real and notable difference in someone’s life if you’d just stop watching that damn Kenzo dance video over and over again in bed.