A new study conducted by universities in Italy and Luxembourg has found that being exposed to homophobic Facebook comments has a negative impact on people’s mental wellbeing.
The study pulled data from 50,000 people in Italy who used social networks and measured their levels of happiness and self esteem. The research was conducted by the Sapienza University of Rome and the Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques du Grand-Duché du Luxembourg.
The study revealed people who use social networks are more exposed to “offensive behaviours and hate speech”, and that bigoted comments had a tangible effect on people’s happiness.
The spokesperson for the research study said: “Online networks also are a fertile ground for spreading harmful, offensive, or controversial contents often lying at the verge between free speech and hate speech.”
The spokesperson suggested tolerant people may find themselves interacting with racist and homophobic users on a public page and the risk of being exposed to discrimination and hate speech was higher for women and minority groups
“Interacting online entails a higher risk of being targeted with offensive behaviours and hate speech. This risk is particularly significant for women and users belonging to minorities or discriminated
groups. [Using Facebook] exposes individuals to the risk of worsening people’s trust in others and therefore people’s life satisfaction.
The study suggested social networking sites needed to work on further policies to prevent aggressive and bullying behaviour and hate speech.