Best of 2014: Evidence Grows That Online Social Networks Have Insidious Negative Effects

In August, a study of 50,000 people in Italy concluded that online social networks have a significant negative impact on individual welfare.

Online social networks have permeated our lives with far-reaching consequences. Many people have used them to connect with friends and family in distant parts of the world, to make connections that have advanced their careers in leaps and bounds and to explore and visualize not only their own network of friends but the networks of their friends, family, and colleagues.

But there is growing evidence that the impact of online social networks is not all good or even benign. A number of studies have begun to find evidence that online networks can have significant detrimental effects. This question is hotly debated, often with conflicting results and usually using limited varieties of subjects, such as undergraduate students.