Facebook : Causing Happiness or Unhappiness?

A few days back I met my friend R A who is a rising name in legal circle in Chandigarh. While talking, I casually mentioned that for long, I have not found his Facebook updates. I was surprised to get his answer. He said that going to his facebook page makes him feel uneasy. Because when on Facebook, he finds his college friends well settled and enjoying their life in high society positions, he feels left behind and inferior. So he does not visit his Facebook account often. His response prodded me to talk to other friends about Facebook,  to get more insights on this interesting  topic about the psychological impact of Facebook on them. One other friend SA told me that he deactivated his Facebook account because he was becoming addicted to it. But 5- 6 of my other friends felt happier when on Facebook.
I decided to search internet about Facebook’s impact on people happiness and I came across several interesting studies by expert psychologists and others.
No doubt that social media especially Facebook has provided a great tool to people for making connection with others and it fulfils their important need of a sense of belonging. Even the stories of finding long-lost friends and relatives through Facebook are a little bit old now. However, it has also long been criticised that Facebook has replaced the natural warmth and genuine love and care of actual face to face interaction between people with a superficial sense of connectedness.
Among all the social network sites, Facebook is the most popular in the community of internet users. Believe it or not, there are now more than one billion members of Facebook. That comes to be 17% population of the whole world. On an average, a Facebook user spends 7 hours per month on Facebook to update his status, share something, like and post comments on others status etc. According to one research study by Pewinterneton an average day 68% Facebook users spend their time on commenting on or liking other’s post/status, photo and content while only 15% users bother to update their own status.
So you can well imagine the impact it creates on the social psychology of netizens. Due to its phenomenal popularity among people, Facebook has naturally become a pet subject of psychological studies. One research study by Hanna Krasnova and others from Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany concluded that Facebook users while looking at others’ pages felt envious of others’ happiness, the way others spent their vacations; and socialise. Since Facebook users mostly post happy moments of their life on their Facebook status, other users who see this, tend to think that everything is fine in the other person’s life whereas he himself knows reality of his own life which is a mix of happy, sad and neutral moments. Therefore he feels stressed after visiting others’ Facebook page.
On the other hand, in 2012 in an article by Sarah Hauer , it was reported that “Researchers at IULM University in Milan, Italy, found that Facebook use is associated with a positive emotional state and high arousal.” Now this gets further support form another latest study by Catalina L. Toma of University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA and Jeffrey T. Hancock of Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA. Basing their research on self-affirmation theory, which says that every individual has an inherent need to feel good about oneself, they conducted two tests on several persons. One test proved that response of the participants who visited their Facebook profile was positive to questions as compared to other participants who visited Facebook page of others. In second test, some participants’ ego was hit by giving them negative feedback and then these participants visited their own Facebook profile page twice the number of those who received neutral feedback. The researchers concluded the participants with hurt ego visited their own Facebook profile page for self-affirmation.
Thus going by the above findings, one thing is certain that time spent on Facebook, has an important impact on our emotions. How we use Facebook is what determines the effect. Looking at your own profile page on Facebook has self-affirming effect while looking at another’s may have a reverse effect. So if you have a sinking feeling after seeing others posts on Facebook, go to your Facebook profile page which may lift up your ego and let youself feel good about yourself. It may sound narcissistic but may work in that moment.

So, isn’t it a good article to share on Facebook with your friends who sometimes feel either way? Your comments are also welcome.

Written by: Ashok Kumar

Photo credit: Flickr

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