Whether or not Facebook makes you happy is a frequent point of discussion as social media is put under the lens of scientific scrutiny — but the doom and gloom angle has prevailed in the past, with focus on Facebook’s tendency to provoke envy cited as a depressive aspect of the site.
However, a new study on whether Facebook makes you happy out of Cornell University doesn’t contain the normal skeptical slant, suggesting that the social network may indeed help users feel connected and cared about in ways “meatspace” does not.
Jeff Hancock, Cornell professor of communication and computer and information science, spoke of the study’s results, saying Facebook has long been wrongly decried as psychologically taxing — when in actuality, the positive influence the site imparts is measurable as well:
The conventional wisdom is that Facebook use is merely a time sink and leads to an assortment of negative consequences … But our research shows that it can be a psychologically meaningful activity that supplies a sense of well-being at a relatively deep level.
Hancock and co-researchers looked into whether Facebook can make you happy by taking 88 students and making them engage in the dreaded task of public speaking. (One that, we shall point out, is something we do every day on Facebook stresslessly.)
Researchers noted that for the purposes of the exercise — the students were then given negative feedback — it did indeed seem that Facebook makes you happy. For the ones that accessed their own Facebook profiles, it seemed that the critique was far more easily processed than for subjects without Facebook to mollify harsh words — the Baltimore Sun explains:
Mr. Hancock was surprised to learn that the students felt more loved and worthy after visiting their Facebook profiles than after doing traditional self-affirmation exercises, such as making a list of what is meaningful to them … There is something in our Facebook profiles that makes us feel better about ourselves, the researchers concluded. Whether it is the self-selection of the community (after all, we don’t “enemy” people) or the best-foot-forward way we present ourselves, Facebook appears to have a healing effect on our bruised egos.
Specifically how Facebook makes us happy while viewing our own profiles remains to be seen — but the findings are interesting in light of the repeated claim logging in makes users feel sad, lonely or deprived.
Do you find Facebook to make you happy or sad?