Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Facebook self-soothing 'beneficial'

Nearly nine in 10 Facebook users look at their own wall posts when they are feeling low, according to a new study
Dr Alice Good, whose research has shown using Facebook to look at old photos of yourself could be used as a way of lifting bad moods (University of Portsmouth/PA)

Using Facebook to look at old photos of yourself could be used as a way of lifting bad moods and helping treat mental health issues, according to new research.

Dr Alice Good, of the University of Portsmouth, has found that almost 90% of users of the social network access the site to look at their own wall posts and 75% look at their own photos when they are feeling low.

She says that such "self-soothing" use of Facebook is beneficial to the user's mood, especially if they are prone to feeling low. And she believes this contradicts previous research which suggests that looking at Facebook can be bad for your mental health.

The survey of 144 Facebook users found that people often use the social network to reminisce, using old photos and wall posts as a form of comfort. Looking back at older photos and wall posts was the main activity and the one that made them happiest.

The survey also found that people who have experienced mental health issues were particularly comforted by the site.

Dr Good said: "The results indicate we could use self-soothing as a form of treatment for low moods."

She added: "We were very surprised by these findings, which contradict some recent reports. Although this was only a small study, we will go on to study larger groups to see if the results remain consistent."

Psychologist Dr Clare Wilson, also of the University of Portsmouth, said: "Although this is a pilot study, these findings are fascinating. Facebook is marketed as a means of communicating with others. Yet this research shows we are more likely to use it to connect with our past selves, perhaps when our present selves need reassuring.

"The pictures we often post are reminders of a positive past event. When in the grip of a negative mood, it is too easy to forget how good we often feel. Our positive posts can remind us of this."

The study, published in the journal Lecture Notes in Computer Science: Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction, is part of a larger research project that looks at how applications can support wellbeing and effectively self soothe.

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