Does Social Media Make us Happy or Unhappy?

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As I sat in my bed and browsed Facebook on the last day of break and felt a surge of unhappiness enter my body, I began to wonder why it was that I was feeling sad. It occurred to me that maybe it was because instead of doing something productive such as working out, doing schoolwork, or spending time with my family and friends, I was surfing the endless realms of Facebook. However, isn't the point of social media to connect us to other people and ultimately to make our lives better? This makes me wonder... Does social media cause people to be happy, or does it alienate us to the point where we are more unhappy?

study from the University of Michigan psychologist, Ethan Kross, argues the latter. Kross did his study through the process of experience-sampling -- he texted his subjects five times a day for two week to measure the two components of subjective well-being: how people feel moment to moment, and how satisfied they are with their lives. The results showed negative outcomes on both spectrums. The more the subjects used Facebook the worse they felt the next time being texted. Similarly, the more they used Facebook over the whole two weeks the more dissatisfied they were with their lives over time. These results show, according to Kross, that although Facebook is supposed to fulfill our human need for social connection, instead it has negative impacts on our well-being. However, this study did have limitations such as the number of people (82 doesn't quite represent a whole nation), and the time-length of the study being only two weeks. Had there been more participants and if the study was done for a longer period of time, it would be much more compelling. 

Another study lead by Hanna Krusnova, a researcher at the Humboldt University of Berlin, suggests that Facebook use increases jealousy in users. That is, the more time people spend browsing the site as opposed to posting content and interacting with other people, the more envious they felt. The study was broken down into two parts as responses of 584 Facebook users. Study one aimed at finding out the scale, scope, and nature of incidents involving envy in users while study two examined how passive browsing on Facebook (no interaction) leads to envious feelings which decrease life-satisfaction. Although this connection seems logical and the study covers a broad range of people, the details of how the study was completed are not stated (did they use a questionnaire, anecdotal reports, etc?). So it is hard to say if the study is 100 percent credible. 

On the other hand, a 2009 study by Sebastian Valenzuela and his colleagues suggests that Facebook makes us happier. After surveying 2,603 students across Texas, data showed a relationship between Facebook and increases in life satisfaction, social trust, and political participation. However, Valenzuela admits that the increases were small, indicating that the results may have not been all that significant. 

An experiment from the University of Missouri also connects Facebook with happiness. The study used a procedure called facial electromyography where 36 participants each had four electrodes attached to their face to record their responses while using Facebook. The results showed again that when the users were actively engaged, they were happy. But when they were just browsing the site, the positive effects diminished. Although this study matches well with the other studies I have mentioned, it is still hard to tell how credible it is. After all, the study only accounts for 36 people and doesn't mention third variables such as the age and ethnicity of each participant. This information is important because different people think in different ways -- a 13 year old may be completely satisfied with mindlessly browsing Facebook, while a 55 year old may find it very tedious.

Fb pic.jpg

So overall, it is very hard to prove that social media makes people happy or unhappy. Rather, it can be said that there is a positive correlation between the engagement one has with Facebook and being happy while on it. Vise versa, little interaction can be related to a rather unhappy effect from being on Facebook. I know at least for me this is true. When I get on Facebook for a reason (actually needing to contact someone, or posting something that means something to me) I find myself more happy. But when I just get on and refresh the feed over and over, or start creeping on other people's photos, I find myself unhappy with what I'm doing and always wish I was somewhere else actually doing something productive. 

I'm sure the majority of you guys have Facebook and use it almost everyday. So, what do you guys think? Do you find yourself less happy when simply scrolling through the entire feed as opposed to continuously talking to people and making posts? 

1 Comment

This is an interesting topic, considering that I have 3 social networks myself (twitter, Facebook, snapchat). When I'm actually using Facebook to communicate with someone or post something important, I don't really think much of it. However, I would have to agree with you on how going on social networks just to kill time makes me feel like I'm wasting very valuable time. The article I read pointed out some of the ways that spending too much time on social networks can negatively affect individuals. A few examples were lack of time spent towards education, actual interaction with friends, & cyber bullying, to name a few.

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