With nearly 2 billion users, 50% of which use the mobile app on a daily basis, Facebook is attracting a lot of eyeballs across the globe. But a new study says that using the site frequently may have more of an impact than people realize.
According to the medical journal Behavioral Brain Research, people who often check the app on their smart phones actually have less gray matter in the reward center of their brain.
To spell things out a little more scientifically, researchers in Germany conducted a five week study monitoring 85 different Facebook users – 46 male and 36 female. The total amount of time each person spent on Facebook was logged, as well as how many times they checked in using the app.
MRI scans were used to track their brain structures, and researchers noted that “higher daily frequency of checking Facebook on the smartphone was robustly linked with smaller gray matter volumes of the nucleus accumbens.” In short, people who used the site more often had less material in the “reward” center of their brain.
This study is just one of the latest to show that social media may be having a negative psychological and physical impact on heavy users. A recent study earlier this year from Yale University found that Facebook usage can often leave people feeling more sad or unfulfilled than when they began browsing. By that research, every 1% increase in the number of likes or status updates a user gave, their self reported happiness level decreased by 5 to 8 %.
A University of Pittsburgh study from about the same time frame found similar results, showing that people who use multiple social media platforms are often considered more emotionally or mentally harmed that people who stick to one.
Social media use is on the rise, and it looks like it’s coming at a cost. There’s no denying that it has a mental impact on users, but now it’s starting to look like it might actually physically impact users’ brains.