Is Facebook Making Us Unhappy?

You may have seen this blog post that’s been making the rounds the last couple of days.

Basically, some smart folks at the Happiness Research Institute (who knew there even was such a thing??) did a study where they forced a group of people to go cold turkey and quit Facebook for a while.

Then, they compared their (albeit self-reported) feelings to a second group that used FB the same as normal. At the end of the time, it turns out that those who quit FB felt marginally happier (88%) than those who stayed on it (81%).

Is Facebook making us unhappy?

Wow. Acid wash and perms. Let’s hope those don’t make a comeback any time soon. Or ever.

It’s a good question. It’s not like we haven’t always been a society of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Even before there was social media, we’ve always wanted the things that the cool kids had.

When I was in high school back in the late ’80’s (yes, I’m old), your coolness factor was measured by how many Daniel Hechter sweatshirts you had. The cool kids had one in every colour. I owned one.

Today, it’s not that different. There are very few folks that don’t try to put their best foot forward when they post to Facebook. Are they showing exactly how their life looks? No, of course not. We are all showing a curated version of our lives.

But the thing is, we sometimes forget this when we’re looking at other people’s feeds. You think, I want that guy’s amazing life! It happens all the time.

I have a new favourite podcast, and it’s called Note to Self. In last week’s episode, entitled Is My Phone Eavesdropping on Me?, the host,  Manoush Zomorodi interviews this guy named Walter Kirn. They’re talking about privacy (or our current lack thereof), but one part of the podcast knocked me right out. They were discussing why it is that this phenomenon of “putting our best foot forward” on Facebook exists:

It looks as though the last thing we fear is privacy on the web. But I’ve started to wonder if it’s not a “you can’t fire me, I quit” kind of reaction. That in a world where we don’t expect privacy, in a world where the default setting is you can find out anything about me, we wanna be in control of our image. And a generation that’s trained to make itself look good on Facebook, is really, in fact, converting a certain anxiety it has about it’s real self being seen into a performance.

You have two options when you find out that you’re under surveillance. Only two. One is hide, and the other is perform. We’ve picked perform.

Interesting stuff, right?

So, we’re out there. With eyes on us all the time, we’re trying to create the most positive impression we possibly can.

I don’t thing it’s wrong to do it. Let’s face it, people don’t want to see Debbie Downer content on FB. But I do think it does us all good to remember two things: first off, not everything you see on FB is really true. Take it with a grain of salt. And secondly: good things happen to you, too. Don’t forget that.

And, every once in a while, it’s a good thing to take a break from Facebook.

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

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