In the news lately, a study revealed that “Facebook Makes Us Sadder and Less Satisfied” (also article’s title). One reason given by the study (according to NPR’s Elise Hu) is that Facebook might actually contribute to social comparison. In other words, Facebook may cause you to compare yourself to your friends and that comparison makes you feel less satisfied with your life. While the study’s results don’t surprise me, seems there’s more to it than social comparison. I might feel blue while scrolling through the news feed, but it’s not really due wishing I was more like my friends. I feel that Facebook doesn’t satisfy my social needs for several other reasons.
Dimmed Emotional Response
When I am looking at my computer, I’m not fully there. I’m often tired, bored, or distracted. My emotions are dimmed. When I look at someone’s status update, while I might mentally say, “That’s great,” I am physically unmoved. My face muscles and body are relaxed. I’m often tired. If I were meeting with a friend in person, I might be energized by the company, engaged by the conversation. In personal encounters, moods can improve in an instant by a friend’s “Hello,” but Facebook rarely does that for me. Instead, I’m left asking myself, “Why am I not more uplifted by this? And, “Perhaps it’s because I’m really sad or unfeeling.”
Do you agree? I’m guessing that for many, Facebook use accompanies boredom. And, when we meet friends in person, there is more emotion, more social and environmental stimulation involved.
Reduced to Pixels
Another potential side effect of facebook use is criticism. I think we tend to become critics during media consumption. A spectacle on the internet has to be truly amazing to amaze us, but in person, a spectacle doesn’t have to compete for greatness. In the moment, beauty possesses its own grandeur beyond favoriting, beyond competition. The changing leaves of autumn. A butterfly in spring. When everything is available at the click of a button, nothing is quite as valuable as it would be.
My Not-So-Dear Audience
What I do like about social media is that it gives me a chance to be thoughtful in writing with my friends. However I tend to become more self-conscious–about my words, my pictures, and especially, my status updates. I while I might be happily thinking about posting something one moment, the next I will stop and ask myself, is that really worth sharing? Will it be valued (will anybody care?), or understood (make sense to everyone in my audience?). I think some of this second-guessing might actually undercut our value. We might post something then afterwords think, “That’s stupid, why did I share that with everyone?!” I guess I’m lucky, I tend to just tell my husband the details of my day. When he’s not around, I do message and update a little bit more. But, as far as daily ups and downs go, speaking to a friend or loved one in person is the form of communication that I prefer.
While I agree that Facebook has its strengths (which I could discuss elsewhere), I just can’t help but feeling the pitfalls as well.
Perhaps you don’t share my feelings. In that case, great! Either way, share your thoughts.