Is Facebook harming your happiness?
Facebook is one of the world's largest social media sites – it had 500 million users on 3rd Octobber 2013. More than 250 million people access Facebook from a mobile device, and it seems we just can't get enough of status updates, posting holiday photos, funny YouTube videos or news stories from across the web.
If you've ever dated someone who was addicted to social media, you'll know that Facebook can quite literally take over your life. They're not so much there in the moment with you are they are busy uploading photos of the moment, checking in and tagging you. It can all be a bit much to be honest.
When was the last time you heard someone say that Facebook makes them happy? Does having thousands of Facebook friends mean an enviable social life? Research shows that despite social media conectivity, we're a lonelier, more narcissistic society than ever before. As the number of people across the UK suffering with depression and anxiety rises, could Facebook be responsible for harming your happiness?
Whilst many people have online networks and a web of connectivity, modern life can be isolating and lonely. Despite the world being more accessible to us, we are all more alienated than ever before. Society is fragmented – it seems the more connected we are, the lonelier we are. Gone are the days when you would interact with dozens of people on an average day. Now self-service checkouts, online shopping, grocery deliveries and social media often take the place of face-to-face interaction. This can leave even the most social person feeling a bit disconnected.
Does Facebook care?
Last year, Facebook made $3.7 billion in revenue. It's (almost) the largest internet IPO ever, receiving one trillion page views a month – it's truly vast. Sign up for other social networking sites such as Google Plus or LinkedIn and you're encouraged to add your 'real friends' or only people that you know. Compare that to Facebook, where adding 'friends' is a free-for-all, and it makes you wonder whether people with 1,000+ friends actually know that many people.
Singledom in society
Did you know that solitary living is more common than ever before? Rising property prices and people choosing to get married later in life (the average age is now mid-30's) means that more people live alone than in the past In 1950, less than 10% of households in the USA consisted of just one person. Today, that figure exceeds 27%. Living alone doesn't automatically equal loneliness, but loneliness and isolation can make you unhappy.
Is Facebook responsible for your sadness?
Research suggests that regularly using Facebook can make you feel less satisfied with your life. A team of psychologists from Michigan and Belgium evaluated how Facebook impacts life satisfaction over time. A group of people were asked a series of questions, five time a day for two weeks. The questions included:
- How do you feel right now?
How lonely do you feel right now?
How much have you used Facebook since we last asked?
The surprising results revealed that Facebook use was linked to a low sense of overall well-being. Think about it – Facebook is sort of like a giant popularity contest. If you've ever felt deflated when you've seen photos of yet another friend getting married, having a baby or landing a new job, you'll know what I'm talking about. This effect is known as 'friendly world syndrome' – it can make it seem like everyone is happier and doing better than you. Yet we all edit our lives, posting only what we want others to see on Facebook, which can lead to dissatisfaction for others.
A growing trend for narcissism
Facebook can breed narcissim too. We all have that friend who spends all day everyday posting selfies, or documents every aspect of their life as if it was the most fascinating soap opera ever. Nobody is really bothered that you've painted your living room duck egg blue or finally paid off your credit card debt – and those who are bothered are your real friends, who you probably interact with outside of Facebook anyway! Using Facebook regularly can definitely make you more narcissistic, but it can also make you feel lonelier and more depressed. Envy of friends' achievements can increase with Facebook use and social comparison with our peers can leave us feeling inadequate.
Break the cycle
So, how do you get over feelings of unhappiness caused by Facebook? Taking a break from the site is an option, or you could just limit your exposure to the things that make you feel down. Deleting the app from mobile devices means it's harder to log in – booting up your PC just to check Facebook is more effort.
When you do log in, limit your interactions. Tidy up your news feed and clear out your friends list so you only include those you care about and want to connect with. Avoid scrolling endlessly through your news feed. Click on indivdual friends' profiles to see their updates or edit your news feed so you see only what you want to see. If you start to feel envious, jealous or negative, log off.
You'll find limiting your exposure to Facebook can really boost your mood, and you may notice that feelings of dissatisfaction and loneliness become less severe. Try changing your Facebook habits and see if you notice a difference – let us know in the comments if this has worked for you!