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Facebook Makes Us Sad

September 4, 2014

Full disclosure here: I am not on Facebook. I don’t want to be on Facebook as FB is way too public a venue for me to put most anything out there. I don’t like the idea of “sharing” anything with up to 300 people, or more. So, before I get into this, just want to throw that out there. The other thing is, FB, I have found, makes me depressed. It’s not that I am a stranger to FB, but it’s disheartening to see everyone’s pettiness or recipes or oversharing, not to mention that all that oversharing is also culled for commercial profit. But aside from that, what seems like pure happiness for some people really does cause unhappiness:

Study leader Dr Ethan Kross, from the University of Michigan in the US, said: “On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. But rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result – it undermines it.”

What?? How is this possible? I know that people talk about loving FB. The average user spends about 5 hours per week on FB. That’s 5 hours that is not spent actually talking with people we care about, but vicariously reading about them, if we do, in fact, care about them that much. This latest study, as discussed on Huff Post, details the downfalls:

What seems like a harmless interaction is actually chipping away at the time you could be spending with your loved ones, and more importantly, is feeding a culture of‘compare and despair’ which Hay House author Louise Presley-Turner says is where we look at the lives of other people and envy them, rather than being happy with what we’ve got.

For myself, I don’t want to know if someone is happy with their spouse. I don’t want to know how much fun someone supposedly had over the weekend at whatever funhouse they visited with their kids. Apparently other people start to compare what they have and read the bragging commentary on FB and feel badly about their own lives. What purpose is there, really, for posting pictures of your kids to a couple hundred people to tell what you did over the weekend? What kind of communication is that? At what level is that really a form of meaningful conversation as opposed to simply bragging about “what you did” over the weekend that was so fun? And what is the desired response? What do people who post these things really expect to happen? They expect people to comment in the positive.

Personally, I find FB exhausting. I can only keep up with a a modicum of people at a time, and generally find that too much interaction can be tiresome. The idea of being socially required to click “like” on things is repugnant to me, and who hasn’t seen the tantrums thrown on FB about who the “real” friends are and how the “real” friends will get to continue or not continue to have access to the full grown adult complaining about a lack of FB interaction from people they have actively “friended.”

According to experts, this type of alert isn’t uncommonly exhausting just for me. It impacts all technology users:

“What I am saying here is that we need to understand the power of an e-mail or Facebook alert. It has the same psychological status as someone waving to us in the street – we have evolved to notice it, and to respond to it. This is why it is so difficult not to respond. The result is that even if we have resolved not to look at our e-mails or Facebook, if we by chance glance at them, we find it virtually impossible to ignore.”

No kidding. I wake up when I hear my phone go off with text messages, and I have waken up to e-mails coming in at 2am. My response is to switch it all off, but I know other people, have gotten emails from other people, who get up at 3am to write that email response.  According to experts, people are spending more and more time on social networking sites:

There is no absolute right or wrong, but Susie Pearl, happiness activist and HuffPost UK blogger says: “Monitor it for 3 days and find out. It will surprise you for sure how many times you check your phone and social sites. When you look at all that time spent every day, think about what else you could do with that time to make your life better and happier. Many of us don’t realise how much time we take up watching for messages. When you add it all up over a year – that’s a very long time.”

She adds: “Social media is accounting for around 20% of time spent online and this figure is growing. And, recent studies show that people using social networks say they spend an average of 3.2 hours a day every day. That’s a lot of time. You could write a book, learn a language, get a new skill or live your life in the outside world in that time.”

Three hours every day? That's time that could be spent with other people, not just typing about them. No wonder Facebook makes people unhappy, substituting an on-line life for active engagement in life can't be what makes us happy.

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