Facebook chats can give as big a boost as getting married, say researchers
Chatting to our friends on Facebook can make us feel as satisfied with our lives as getting married, research has shown.
A study by Carnegie Mellon University found that personalised posts and comments from our peers on social networking sites, which go a step beyond one-click Facebook "likes", can boost our feelings of well-being.
Researchers who surveyed social media users discovered that those who received two social media messages per day experienced a similar feeling of well-being and life satisfaction as they did from major life events, such as their wedding.
Moira Burke, research scientist at Facebook, said: "We're not talking about anything that's particularly labour-intensive. This can be a comment that's just a sentence or two.
"The important thing is that someone such as a close friend takes the time to personalise it.
"The content may be uplifting, and the mere act of communication reminds recipients of the meaningful relationships in their lives."
Professor Robert Kraut, of Carnegie Mellon's human-computer interaction institute, added: "It turns out that when you talk with a little more depth on Facebook to people you already like, you feel better.
"That also happens when people talk in person."
The research, published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, involved 1,910 Facebook users from 91 countries who were recruited with Facebook ads.
Each agreed to take a monthly personal survey for three months and to have their responses joined with analysis of their Facebook behaviour.
Participants' Facebook activity was monitored over several months, taking into account how frequently they posted, read and commented on other posts and gave "likes".
The final report of the study stated: "We examined changes in well-being for participants who reported going through major life events on the survey, such as the death of a close friend, getting married or having a personal injury.
"Of the major life events associated with changes in well-being here, the effects of strong-tie communication were roughly comparable (though in the opposite direction) to the effect of an illness, and half to a third of the size of divorce or losing a job.
"In summary, although the effects of SNS (social networking sites) communication were modest, they were the same order or magnitude as effects associated with some major life events.
Previous research has suggested that more time spent on social media sites was associated with a greater likelihood of loneliness and depression.
But, following this latest study, Kraut said: "This suggests that people who are feeling down may indeed spend more time on social media, but they choose to do so because they've learned it makes them feel better.
"They're reminded of the people they care about in their lives."