I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. Though I've broken things off several times in the 12 years we've been together, inevitably I always end up crawling back. I feel like my social life is incomplete without Facebook's constant presence.

We're semi-stable now. But I'm still not convinced this relationship is good for me. That is until this I found this study about Facebook use and longevity that just hit the scientific journal newsstands. Its findings might strengthen my relationship with Facebook for the good of my health.

While the effects of heavy screen time continue to be in question, it turns out there could be health and happiness benefits to spending time on social media. We already know that rich friendships and relationships are key to living longer. This study reveals that your online relationships may equally beneficial to living a long life as your in-person ones.

The study was just released in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and found spending more time on social networks could lead to longer life spans. "This evidence contradicts assertions that social media have had a net-negative impact on health," the New York Times reported.

Here are a few more interesting insights the study found.

Less is not necessarily more

If you've gone off Facebook or never joined, this could convince you to jump on the bandwagon: The study found the average Facebook user is 12% less likely to die than someone who doesn't use the site, Mirror Online reported. People who had average or larger networks lived longer than those with small networks.

And, people who shared photos online that were captured from face-to-face social activities had lower mortality rates. Online-only interactions -- such as posting on walls or writing messages -- had negligible effects.

Accept those friend requests

People in the study who received many friend requests during a two-year period were less likely to die than those who didn't have many requests. But it didn't work vice versa. Sending friend requests didn't seem to have any effect on how long people lived. People in the top 10th of friend requests were less likely to die than those who were in the bottom 10th of friend requests.

This data seems terrifically hard to correlate. How much control do you really have over how many people knock on your virtual door requesting your hand in online friendship? It could be that those people receiving all those online friend requests had previously made more face-to-face connections that ultimately led to said request.

While this study doesn't quite offer game-changing insight into if and how you should use Facebook for your health, it is one of the first that explores the overlap between real-life and online relationships. These two types of relationships have long existed in their prospective research vacuums. But that doesn't accurately represent how we really live our lives. The lines between the two are blurred, to say the least. This study may open the door for further research about how our health and happiness are affected by the relationship between both. ​

Published on: Oct 31, 2016
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