To continue my thoughts on the Life-is-short-so-I-better-make-the-most-of-it theme, my next point after drafting a bucket list was “Do things that make you happy, that bring you joy.” In other words, stay away from things that make you sad.
What ARE the things I do everyday?
I took a mental inventory of my daily routine. I get up. I turn on the radio, make breakfast. While I’m eating I open up the iPad, check my email, and then yes – I check my Facebook. Once ready, I hop the bus to go to work. It’s a 40-minute bus ride, so yes – I check my Facebook. At lunch time, I will check my phone for messages and Yes – go on Facebook. Bus ride back – yep, you guessed it. Periodically in the evening if I’m home and not doing anything in particular yes – I’ll go on Facebook or LinkedIn. Doing my homework? As a mental break, yes – I’ll go on Facebook or LinkedIn. Out with friends, skiing, skating, playing music – yeah, we’d most likely post a photo on Facebook!
Yikes! That is a lot of time spent on social media. I asked myself – is this something that is making me happy?
To start, I live a province or more away from my siblings and extended family so to keep in touch and keep up with everyone’s lives, Facebook has been a very useful tool. In addition, being involved in the local music scene requires me to keep updated on that as well. So yes – Facebook does contribute positively to my life for those reasons. But sometimes I’ll read others’ posts that make me shake my head, roll my eyes or downright make me angry. Is that a positive contribution?
Does Social Media Contribute to a Person’s Happiness? Or Sadness?
I researched the subject and found a variety of articles, blogs and opinions.
In one blog I came across, apparently social media can increase one’s happiness, and it has a ripple effect.
“New research by James Fowler at The University of California shows that in a social network, happiness spreads among people up to three degrees removed from one another. Fowler says that taking control of your happiness can positively affect others, and that a chain reaction can occur. The research has also shown that sadness spreads in a social network, but not as quickly. The study, published in the British Medical Journal, used data from the Framington Heart Study of a network of more than 4,000 people.The research study shows that each happy friend increases your own chance of being happy by 9% whereas each unhappy friend decreases it by 7%.”
So the more happy friends you have in a social network, the better your chances of being happy too.
According to this article entitled Sadness and Social Media, from Harrisburg Magazine, there is research that suggests that using social media can lead to sadness, loneliness or feelings of depression. http://www.harrisburgmagazine.com/February-2016/Sadness-and-Social-Media/:
Researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a study that investigated how Facebook usage correlates to unhappiness. The study involved text messaging a group of young adults multiple times a day for two weeks to determine how Facebook usage affected their subjective wellbeing. Some of the questions sent to the participants asked how they were feeling, how much had they used Facebook since the last message was sent and how lonely they felt at the time. The two main components they tested for were their overall life satisfaction and how they felt from moment to moment.
After the study was complete, the research showed that, “The more [participants] used Facebook over two weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time.” It goes on to explain that using Facebook in times of loneliness did not contribute to happiness and actually produced a decline in affective wellbeing. Though participants would report feeling more lonely, their Facebook usage was not deterred, showing how difficult it is to disengage from the constant updates that draw you into the site.
Yay AND nay?
Out of all the articles I’ve read on this topic, the one that sums it up best in my opinion is this one, by psychologist Dr. Lisa Kaplan, called Social Media — Happy Place or Hater Maker? It all Depends on How You Use it. http://www.yourtango.com/experts/dr-lisa-kaplin/love-it-or-hate-it-social-media-effect-on-happiness:
Social media in one form or another is here to stay, but the reviews are mixed at best about whether all of this online “connection” is actually good for our emotional wellbeing. We certainly have more digital access to each other than ever before, yet we are also now able to constantly compare ourselves to those hundreds of “friends” around us. As a result, a lot of us are feeling pretty down about ourselves. The way I see it, there are 3 ways to use social media and which one you choose can make or break your happiness.
In summary, she notes:
- If you use social media to compare your life to others’ fabulously busy, happy-looking and activity-filled lives (often very misrepresented) you are heading for disaster in the self-esteem department.
- If you use it to criticize, judge or nit-pick other people’s opinions or quirky ways – how will you feel? Will being unkind online make you feel good about yourself at the end of the day? She doubts it.
- Using it to learn, think, grow and connect is the way to go. You can connect with others in your field, find job or volunteer positions, support people in their endeavors. And if you have a bad day you can always find a funny post or a puppy video!
Social media will be what we make of it. It can make us feel happy and connected or it can add to our angst and loneliness. We have to be aware, pay attention to our feelings and monitor our use of it.
I’m taking Dr. Kaplan’s advice on this one: “Spend your time online wisely and carefully, as your happiness might depend on it.”
What do you think? How does social media make you feel?
(Photo credits: All images used in this post are from https://creativecommons.org/)