Don’t Let Facebook Get You Down

Now that almost everyone uses Facebook, it’s good to know more people are also studying it. Social media is great for reaching faraway people and staying connected. But it’s not so great as a substitute for in-person relationships.

“Facebook use predicts declines in subjective well-being in young adults” (Ethan Kross). Hundreds of studies have already shown that our TV culture has made everyone more isolated, less socially connected. As a remedy for loneliness or boredom, people turn to Facebook.

One of the problems with Facebook as a substitute for in-person relationships is that you get a very skewed image of your FB friends. People post their best experiences and most interesting events, with photos and videos showing their exciting lives. FB looks like a massively happy place. You see all that sparkling awesomeness shining from everyone else, and then you engage in social comparison.

Social comparison is a psychological instinct. It is realistic with in-person relationships, but very inaccurate on Facebook. In person, you share good and bad with your friends, you see each other’s problems, you understand the human condition is not so sparkling. But on FB you see only the “Best Of.” You are comparing your real inner feeling to other people’s public face. People know they themselves put their best face forward on FB, but forget that everyone else is doing the same thing. The psychological net effect is sadness and low self-image.

One unfortunate result is that people actually feel better seeing other people’s problems, and feel worse seeing other people’s happiness. This changing attitude is not healthy. It’s also not necessary. Just remember all the problems you have—keep in mind everyone on FB has problems just as bad. Invest your deepest and truest self in your in-person friendships. That will give you a more balanced comparison and a healthier self image. Real life is a healthy and happy alternative to online life and virtual friends.

“If you’re feeling bummed, researchers did test for and find a solution. The prescription for Facebook despair is less Facebook. Researchers found that face-to-face or phone interaction — those outmoded, analog ways of communication — had the opposite effect. Direct interactions with other human beings led people to feel better” (Elise Hu).

Facebook also feeds the passiveness already encouraged by our TV culture. Real-life relationships require more activity and effort. When in-person friendships were the only kind available, people had no choice but to see the bad with the good in everyone. No one could selectively hide negative issues from friends who were often in each other’s houses, sharing real life. Their friendships were closer and more realistic. When you see that your friends have hardships, it makes you want to contribute more positive feelings. Friends weather storms together, they help each other feel better through life. When everyone’s relationships were 100 percent in person, it helped create a stronger community, and people were there to build up and cheer up each other.

In today’s culture of relative isolation, we fill the gap with an online pretend-community. Facebook may help you stay in touch with real friends, but the “real” part is not on Facebook. Get some face-to-face interaction today! ☺

  • Elise Hu. “Facebook Makes Us Sadder And Less Satisfied, Study Finds”. National Public Radio. Link:
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/08/19/213568763/researchers-facebook-makes-us-sadder-and-less-satisfied, August 20, 2013.
    “If you’re feeling bummed, researchers did test for and find a solution. The prescription for Facebook despair is less Facebook. Researchers found that face-to-face or phone interaction — those outmoded, analog ways of communication — had the opposite effect. Direct interactions with other human beings led people to feel better.”
  • Ethan Kross, Philippe Verduyn, Emre Demiralp, Jiyoung Park, David Seungjae Lee, Natalie Lin, Holly Shablack, John Jonides, Oscar Ybarra. “Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults” PLoS ONE 8(8): e69841. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069841. Link:
    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0069841, August 14, 2013.
  • Maia Szalavitz. “Misery Has More Company Than You Think, Especially on Facebook”. Time. Link:
    http://healthland.time.com/2011/01/27/youre-not-alone-misery-has-more-company-than-you-think/, January 27, 2011.
  • Alexander H. Jordan, Benoît Monin, Carol S. Dweck, Benjamin J. Lovett, Oliver P. John, and James J. Gross. “Misery Has More Company Than People Think: Underestimating the Prevalence of Others’ Negative Emotions”. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin January 2011 37: 120-135. National Institutes of Health. Link:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4138214/, January 2011, latest update August 19, 2014.

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