Using Facebook to look at old photos of yourself and wall posts that you have written could be as soothing as a walk in the park.
Almost 90 percent of users access the site to look at their own wall posts, and three quarters look at their own photos when they are feeling low, new research has found.
A report by Dr Alice Good, of the University of Portsmouth, has found that this kind of ‘self soothing’ use of Facebook is actually beneficial to the user’s mood, especially if they are prone to feeling low.
This directly contradicts previous research that has suggested that looking at Facebook can be bad for your mental health.
Dr Good said: “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.”
Dr Good, of the School of Computing, quizzed 144 Facebook users and 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 is the main activity, and the one that made them happiest.
Psychologist Dr Clare Wilson, of the University of Portsmouth says:
“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 grips of a negative mood, it is too easy to forget how good we often feel. Our positive posts can remind us of this.”
The survey also found that people who have experienced mental health issues are particularly comforted by the site.
Dr Good said: “The results indicate we could use self-soothing as a form of treatment for low moods.”
The study has concluded that looking at comforting photos, known as reminiscent therapy, could be an effective method of treating mental health.
Scientists already know that reminiscent therapy helps older people with memory problems.
The use of old photos, items and films can provide a way for people with short-term memory loss to feel comforted by objects that are familiar to them.
This new research shows that it could also an effective treatment for people with depression or anxiety.
The act of self-soothing is an essential tool in helping people to calm down, especially if they have an existing mental health condition. If a patient self soothes there is less chance of a problem escalating.
The report also looked at ways of accessing Facebook, with phones being the most popular method and 94 per cent admitting they had their phone on them at all time, with around 70 per cent actually preferring to access Facebook using their phone over more conventional methods, such as a PC or laptop, suggesting people have a desire for immediacy, both in accessing the site as well as for viewing photos.
This study is part of a larger research project that looks at how applications can support wellbeing and effectively self soothe.
This research is published in the journal ‘Lecture Notes in Computer Science: Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction’. Springer Berlin / Heidelberg.