The key to understanding why reputable studies are so starkly divided on the question of what Facebook does to our emotional state may be in simply looking at what people actually do when they’re on Facebook. … When people engaged in direct interaction with others—that is, posting on walls, messaging, or “liking” something—their feelings of bonding and general social capital increased, while their sense of loneliness decreased. But when participants simply consumed a lot of content passively, Facebook had the opposite effect, lowering their feelings of connection and increasing their sense of loneliness.
Examining conflicting studies about the emotional impact of social media, The New Yorker’s Maria Konnikova, author of the excellent Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, argues that with Facebook, as with life, we reap what we sow.
Still, it’s hard not to wonder whether what Susan Sontag asserted about photography in the 1970s – that it’s a need "to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced," making us less satisfied with reality as it is – is at least partly, and troublingly, true of how we use social media today.
And yet the internet, by and large, is making us smarter and happier than we think.