Does Facebook Make Us Happy?

My aunt once told me that we are in control of our own happiness.  She was right; even my thirteen year old self could grasp that concept.  At that time, I was upset with my boyfriend. My social issues at that age and in the 1980s was not as dramatic as some issues plaguing our youth today. I am so thankful that cameras were not abound and that social media did not exist in my teens. So much of my young life, undocumented and for the better.    

I was able to make mistakes without a lot of other people judging me for it. To which I am thankful; because I made a lot of mistakes. But isn't that what youth is about? Without Facebook and the likes, I was able to make my mistakes and not be ridiculed or bullied. Without Instagram, I was able to go through my teen years without my eighties hairstyle forever etched in peoples' minds. I was able to have a real conversation and not a snapchat. Oh and forget about selfies and nude photos of me sent into the universe. I also didn't have to worry about the mistakes I made catching up with me later and getting in the way of future adult Jen's professional life.  

As an adult that grew up without an on-line presence, I have no issues turning my Facebook off. In fact, a few years ago I went off-line and off the grid for six months. I went back to having meaningful conversations and setting up dinners with friends. Face-to-face dialogue became even more important and we also had lots to talk about when we saw each other.

So why did I go off Facebook? I found Facebook to be hurtful. I was able to see too much and know too much about people that weren't in my life any more. I found myself not being able to control my emotions. I felt like I was in high school again. This was not pleasant. In fact, when I made the decision to cut myself off Facebook, I went through withdrawals.  At first I missed seeing what everyone was doing, but slowly I got used to it. 

Going through with this experiment gave me a greater sense of myself and being a good friend.  I cherished being with my friends rather than being a voyeur in their lives. I was Facebook free for six months and it was blissful.  

In August of this year, the University of Michigan completed a study on how Facebook affects our emotions (see the link below). Overwhelmingly, those participants studied claimed to be more upset after going on Facebook and reading the News Feed. Seeing friends doing amazing things such as going on trips or buying new cars and homes makes people upset. This also leads to people feeling negatively toward their own lives.  

Human nature is to compare ourselves to others and Facebook is the perfect venue for that. How many likes we got on our pictures or how many people commented when we complained about our day directly relates to our happiness. Interestingly, having pseudo-relationships on-line provides us with less of a release of happy endorphins than seeing people face-to-face. In fact, some on-line interactions can be destructive and it takes away the personal aspect and sometimes people cross the line with comments / feedback because they forget that someone is physically on the other side of the computer.  

Let's remember why Facebook was created--to have a mock social environment. This mock environment has made us less accountable for our actions and more insular. I likened Facebook to high school earlier and I hold steady in this conviction. Facebook enables us to re-create this atmosphere where there are: lots of trivial issues, drama, popularity contests, place to talk about yourself, place to bully, and a place to feel sorry for yourself. I don't discount the fact that social media and Facebook allows us to communicate with people we wouldn't otherwise and to share our lives with others, but honestly, I love seeing my friends and family for real. And only having the memories of it in my mind is just fine. Not everybody needs to know what I am doing all the time. 

Facebook in moderation, like anything else, is good. It's a healthier and happier response to a social media crazy global society. If something doesn't add value to your life, why bother having it be a part of your life?   

~Jennifer Ward

RantingnRaven on twitter  

*if you are being bullied on-line, please tell someone. Your local police department will help you. This is a serious issue.