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Online networks and subjective well-being

  • Fabio Sabatini

    ()

    (University of Rome - La Sapienza)

  • Francesco Sarracino

    ()

Does Facebook make people lonely and unhappy? Empirical studies have produced conflicting results about the effect of social network- ing sites (SNS) use on individual welfare. We use a representative sample of the Italian population to investigate how actual and virtual networks of social relationships influence subjective well-being (SWB). We find a significantly negative correlation between online networking and self-reported happiness. We address endogeneity in online net- working by exploiting technological characteristics of the pre-existing voice telecommunication infrastructures that exogenously determined the availability of broadband for high-speed Internet. We try to further disentangle the direct effect of SNS use on well-being from the indirect effect possibly caused by the impact of SNS's on trust and sociability in a SEM analysis. We find that online networking plays a positive role in SWB through its impact on physical interactions. On the other hand, SNS use is associated with lower social trust, which is in turn positively correlated with SWB. The overall effect of network- ing on individual welfare is significantly negative.

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Paper provided by Econometica in its series Econometica Working Papers with number wp54.

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Date of creation: Jun 2014
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Handle: RePEc:ent:wpaper:wp54
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