Facebook users who think that they are insulated to cyberbullying and depression are actually more vulnerable to the negative realities of social media, a new research warns.
This "optimistic bias" or wishful thinking - an intrinsic tendency to imagine future events in a favourable light that enhances positive self-regard - leaves those Facebook users at the risk of developing depression.
"Our findings show novel discrepancies in how people perceive themselves and others concerning the positive and negative outcomes of Facebook use," said lead author Sunny Jung Kim, postdoctoral research associate from the Dartmouth University.
In the new study, the researchers surveyed 237 active Facebook users between ages 18 and 37.
The participants were asked to assess their own and other people's likelihood of experiencing positive and negative outcomes on Facebook.
The results show that Facebook users with "optimistic bias" tend to show strong support for internet regulations to protect other users from social ostracising, although not from psychologically negative effects, including depression and loneliness.
"The lack of support regarding psychological harms may be because mental health effects are perceived as less amenable to regulation or because their importance is underestimated," the authors wrote.
The results also show that Facebook users who view the site negatively or who use it infrequently think other people are more likely than themselves to have positive experiences on the site, a reversed optimistic bias that is new and intriguing.
Although some might argue that it is still premature to claim that Facebook use is a direct predictor of clinical depression and suicidal attempts, a growing line of research indicates that negative events such as Facebook cyberbullying can result in detrimental consequences, including depression and substance use problems.
"Without adequate protections, the damage of these critical events can be severe," Kim noted.
Given that negative personal and health news such as stressful events and depressive symptoms are frequently shared on Facebook, it may be an important site for observing negative psychological states of users, the authors concluded.
The findings appeared in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.