The Challenge: We love social media (e.g., Facebook), but sometimes it can make us feel like crap (not as beautiful/successful/loved as our friends).
The Science: Consistent Facebook use may actually lead to greater unhappiness.
The Solution: Here’s a trick for enjoying social media without getting the blues!
Until recently, I’ve always worked a job that involved social media. While managing social media campaigns, I became hyper-obsessive with Facebook. I justified my behavior because I was “working.” Running an amazing social media campaign was my job. Spending an entire event taking photos and looking at my phone? That was my job. I had to capture and engage with a digital audience, even when a real audience was right in front of me. I was on the clock! I had to! Spending dinner with family on my phone? I had to. I had to stay on top of my social media accounts! All day, every day.
And then, I quit my jobs managing social media.
So here I was with a regular, obsessive habit (checking my Facebook a million times a day) and nothing but free time to do so.
Every time I checked my newsfeed, it was like a part of me died a little.
“So and so” was engaged. Her sister was also engaged. Oh, and her other sister was recently married. “So and so” just took a job working at the coolest, up-and-coming company in the heart of San Francisco. And his brother recently got back from traveling the entire Eastern Hemisphere. And his profile picture is of him riding a camel. By the ocean. With the sun setting. And his girlfriend is gorgeous. And he will probably propose on Christmas in a butterfly garden.
And then my profile.
Here’s a picture of a sandwich I ate.
It was pretty obvious that every person on the planet was happy but me.
It was very hard to vocalize how I was feeling because I knew I was being pretty irrational. But it turns out I’m not the only one that feels this way. As we all seek to understand the beast that is social media, so does science. Many studies are being released about the effects of social media use on our health and well-being. John Jonides, a University of Michigan cognitive neuroscientist, was recently quoted on NPR, stating, “When you’re on a site like Facebook, you get lots of posts about what people are doing. That sets up social comparison — you maybe feel your life is not as full and rich as those people you see on Facebook.”
Despite this study being the epitome of “correlation does not imply causation,” it still raises an interesting point. The participants in the study reported lower levels of life satisfaction based on increased Facebook use compared to those that had less Facebook use.
Sometimes, I fear the world of social media could be like the smoking epidemic. We won’t know the effects on our health and well-being until 30 years later when 20,000 Americans have lung cancer.
Maybe this is an over-dramatic statement, but I’m just saying…
I’m not ready to delete my Facebook entirely. After all, how would I remember when anyone’s birthday was? But I did delete the app from my phone because it was always in moments of boredom or free time that I would check my phone and my newsfeed for a little dose of jealousy, insecurity, and worthlessness.
I theorize that without the app, I will be happier. Without the constant comparison of our lives to others, maybe it will give us a chance to just focus on our own. And to stop being jealous of a life that is probably inaccurately portrayed. But I want it to be so much more than dropping the judgments and the unnecessary comparisons. I want to stop assuming that everyone is happy all the time. My bet is that for every picture posted in happiness, there are probably about 100 unhappy life moments that go un-posted. Because who wants to read that s#!@?
Well. You just did about how I went through a two-month period before Christmas where I was extremely unhappy.
There. I said it.
My life isn’t perfect. And neither is hers. And neither is his. And neither is his brother’s. Or his brother’s fiance’s. Everyone has their fair share of heartaches, but it’s just not something we are overly public about. Maybe we should be. Maybe we shouldn’t.
I don’t plan on getting rid of Facebook entirely any time soon. And I don’t expect you, beautiful people, to stop posting all the Facebook-worthy moments of happiness that lead me to believe you are happier than me.
What I am trying to say is, “Count your blessings.”
The next time you get on Facebook and feel like crap, take a break and remember all the things you are grateful for – all the things that are working for you in your life right now. Rather than looking at other people’s profiles and comparing yourself to them, celebrate their success and remember how lucky you are too.
If you’re having a hard time with that, pull out a pen and paper and write down three things you are grateful for every day. Research shows that it can significantly improve your well-being. You’ll be amazed at how different things feel. Even Science says so.
Now….to post a pic on Facebook of the sandwich I am eating.