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Facebook was making people feel like crap from the very beginning, new study reveals

Published Oct 25th, 2022 8:18AM EDT
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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Heading into the third-quarter earnings report that’s coming on Wednesday from Meta — the parent company whose holdings include the Facebook app as well as Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and the Meta Quest VR ecosystem — company CEO Mark Zuckerberg is still talking up Meta’s billion-dollar bet on the burgeoning metaverse. Though, how much longer he can keep that up is anyone’s guess at this point.

Reports have proliferated that the company’s metaverse playground is, instead, a ghost town. At least one investor is begging Zuckerberg to pump the brakes on all the metaverse hubbub and big spending. Meanwhile, the digital ad landscape continues to collapse, and Meta recently experienced its first year-over-year revenue decline. Apple’s mobile operating system has cut off Meta’s ad-tracking money machine at the knees — and there’s more bad news about the Facebook app itself, as if it didn’t have enough already.

New study: Impact of Facebook app on mental health

Via Psychology Today, newly published research adds some additional texture to what many people have probably assumed for a while now. Namely, that Facebook usage has had a detrimental impact on many users’ mental health — and through no fault of their own, at that, simply because of the way the app is architected and the kinds of behavior it incentivizes.

You can read the full study at this link. Basically, the researchers correlate national surveys on the mental health of college students that were conducted from 2004 to 2006, which is the time when the Facebook app was also rolling out more widely, to colleges beyond Harvard.

From Psychology Today’s summary of the findings:

“After Facebook was introduced to a campus, more students on that campus reported having depression and anxiety disorders. In particular, they were more likely to say they felt hopeless, exhausted, and “severely depressed” … Further, the effect was strongest among students who were already most susceptible to mental illness.”

Facebook app
A collection of social media apps shown on a smartphone, including Facebook’s. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Zuckerberg’s manic obsession with the metaverse, meanwhile, comes as the Facebook app these days increasingly feels neglected — it remains an overstuffed nightmare on mobile — while Meta is also walking a delicate line with Instagram, which still has a huge base of users who love it.

That’s something increasingly being put at risk, however, by the company’s game of catch-up and copycat that it’s playing with TikTok. All of which leads to news headlines, like this one from Insider:

“Mark Zuckerberg should dial down the metaverse crap and make Facebook ‘Facebook’ again.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.