Does Facebook make you happy?

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.

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8 comments on “Does Facebook make you happy?

  1. Im a big proponent of the upward vs downward social comparisons engendered by social media (facebook vs reddit Cause different types of social comparisons) but i also believe there is something about the dampened emotional responses one experiences through social media.

  2. mirandaegger says:

    I’ve also read a bit about the ways we use our free time and whether our choices feed our energy or sap our energy. According to this research (sorry, I’ve long since forgotten the source), it’s the sliding into things like television watching or sitting on Facebook that make us unhappy with that sort of past time.

    People who were out hiking or biking or meeting a friend for a drink had DECIDED to do those things while people who were watching TV kind of SLID into that behavior– without intending to spend their Saturday afternoon on the computer. These researchers argued that it is that unintentional nature of spending hours on Facebook that leaves us feeling mildly depressed with how we spent our time.

    Just a thought.

    • That sounds quite right. I’ve been trying to be more conscious about my clicking, because honestly, clicking on facebook anymore is something I do mindlessly. If I ask myself, “Why am I on facebook now?” and I remind myself of the reasons, I can be a little bit more conscious of doing something useful…Rather than just sliding into it. Seems that all of us know what that‘s like from time to time (or perhaps daily).

  3. Abby Bielman says:

    I personally don’t use FaceBook. Technically, I have an account, but it sits for a year before I check on it! When I did use it more often, I always felt drained afterward. I also felt bad if I missed a birthday or didn’t want to engage for some reason, and eventually just abandoned it. What you said about the audience was so true– I found myself wondering if what I post is valued and/or understood.
    I use other forms of social media like Twitter, mostly because I do not have it connected to lots of people I know. I use it for news, information about products, and “people-watching” or an insight into the thoughts and lives of people I don’t really know. It is so universal! Sometimes I want to say something and put it out in the universe, but not necessarily to every person I went to high school with.
    Kind of strange I guess, but I’m a psychology major, and the thoughts of people from all walks of life interest me. One of the big reasons I like Twitter instead of FaceBook is because it’s less focused on my personal life and exposes me to new people and ideas. I rarely feel regret for the things I choose to tweet because it doesn’t effect my personal life, and takes me out of my own little world. I wonder if I’m the only one that has experienced this difference?

    • Great thoughts, Abby. I would like to study more psychology, so my thinking might be filled in with psychological insights and terms. I agree about not wanting to share thoughts with the entire friend-list. I just got a twitter account, looking forward to most of those things you described (when I have time to log on). I use also facebook for news and journals; the stories appear in my news feed. I’m currently addicted to NPR, “goodtherapy.org,” and the reader comments on both.

      • Abby Bielman says:

        I’m way out of touch… I almost forgot how connected Facebook is for a second, mostly because I haven’t used it for such a long time. Originally I remember it being more about college students and alumni keeping in touch, then it replaced myspace, and now it’s something else. It’s kind of amazing how these things evolve, and now they can connect so many things and people.
        I’ll have to take a look for that feed you mentioned, sounds really interesting (I’m sure their probably on Twitter:). I love NPR.

  4. I found another article of how social media can get us down here: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-gender-ourselves/201310/your-social-life-is-not-your-social-media . It looks like you’re right, Abby, in separating your face-to-face friendships from virtual ones.

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