Does Facebook make its users sad, enhance feelings of inadequacy, or cause them to be dissatisfied with their lives due to unavoidable comparisons with the lives of others?
Or does Facebook actually increase happiness, enabling people to reinforce not only their senses of self but feelings of connectivity, in a greater and more measurable way than was possible before everyone we ever knew in our lives was just two clicks away?
Facebook happiness studies have seemingly “found” both things to be true — with some evidencing an unhealthy effect of Facebook making people feel like their lives and their personalities don’t measure up to what they see on the social network, and others showing a mood boost when checking in and interacting with friends, family and others on the site.
As it turns out, both things are true about Facebook and happiness. Sort of.
As research builds on Facebook’s affect on depression and mental health, it’s being discovered that it’s not Facebook that’s actually the defining factor here — it’s how users engage on the social network with friends and relations.
Those who are passive Facebook users, what might have been termed “lurkers” in the pre-social media era, were less likely to be positively affected by their Facebook use.
Active users, who post and comment on Facebook statuses and on their own News Feeds, are far more likely to walk away from Facebook feeling better about their lives and situations than their quieter pals, who are simply absorbing and not contributing to the mishmash of minutiae that makes up the world’s favorite time waster.
The New Yorker explains:
“The world of constant connectivity and media, as embodied by Facebook, is the social network’s worst enemy: in every study that distinguished the two types of Facebook experiences—active versus passive—people spent, on average, far more time passively scrolling through newsfeeds than they did actively engaging with content. This may be why general studies of overall Facebook use, like Kross’s of Ann Arbor residents, so often show deleterious effects on our emotional state. Demands on our attention lead us to use Facebook more passively than actively, and passive experiences, no matter the medium, translate to feelings of disconnection and boredom.”
Are you happier when you use Facebook, or does the social site make you feel a bit bummed about life in general?