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  • Facebook's own researchers found the app has negative impacts on some users, the WSJ reported.
  • The app hurts sleep, work relationships, or parenting for about 12.5% of users, research found.
  • Facebook described the Journal's reporting as "irresponsible" and said it was proactively investigating "problematic use" of its apps.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

An internal Facebook survey found that one in eight users report that their use of the app harms their sleep, work, relationships, and parenting, according to documents seen by The Wall Street Journal.

The researchers approximated that these issues affect about 12.5% of the app's more than 2.9 billion users - equivalent to more than 360 million people.

In the document, researchers said that the findings were a result of users' compulsive usage of the app, which mirrors what is commonly known as "internet addiction," The Journal reported.

The usage patterns are perceived to be worse on Facebook, now Meta, than any other major social media platform, which all try to keep users coming back, the documents said. However, the researchers didn't establish causality.

Facebook calls this "problematic use" of its platform.

The findings come as part of Facebook Files series, primarily based on internal documents leaked by ex-Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen.

Researchers previously found that teen users' mental health is negatively impacted by using the company's photo-and video-sharing app, Instagram, Insider's Ben Gilbert reported.

According to The Journal, the research into social-media use that may harm people's day-to-day lives was launched several years ago by a Facebook team focused on mitigating damaging behaviour. The team suggested a range of fixes and while the company implemented some, it later shut down the team in 2019. The team shared its findings in an internal presentation in March 2020.

They found some users "lack control over the time they spend on Facebook," and subsequently have problems in their lives.

Those problems include a "loss of productivity when people stop completing tasks in their lives to check Facebook frequently, a loss of sleep when they stay up late scrolling through the app and the degradation of in-person relationships when people replace time together with time online," according to the documents, as per The Journal.

"I'm on Facebook every day, every moment. Literally, every moment; just not when I'm in the shower," one user told researchers.

The company, on Friday, fired back at The Journal's reporting, describing it as "irresponsible, because, as is noted in the study itself, the research was designed to be as expansive as possible to help us better understand the challenge."

"Problematic use does not equal addiction," wrote Facebook research chief Pratiti Raychoudhury. "Problematic use has been used to describe people's relationship with lots of technologies, like TVs and smartphones."

Raychoudhury denied the Journal's characterisation that Facebook had stopped researching the impact of its own and other technologies on user wellbeing. She added that the firm had launched "nearly 10 products" to support people's healthy use of Facebook's apps, and that problematic use of apps was an issue impacted several firms.

"While a causal link between social media and addiction has not been found, and overall, research suggests that, on average, social media does not have a major detrimental impact on well-being, we still want to provide people with tools to help them manage it however they see fit," she said.

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