Is Facebook depression a real monster of our times? Do your Facebook friendships take away your happiness?
We’re out to find if our online relationships — most of all, our Facebook friends — reduce or recharge our happiness. But first, let’s ask ourselves a more basic question:
Why are our relationships so essential for living happy and meaningful lives?
Because relationships grant us safe spaces — spaces where we know we belong to, get cared for, listened to, and protected from. Spaces full of people who acknowledge our presence, shoo away our fears, and multiply our joys.
Relationships give meaning to our lives. We feel easier and happier being around other people – parents, siblings, spouses, classmates, colleagues, our religious brethren, fellow travelers, real-life friends, Facebook friends, and perhaps even the gentle stranger.
“Man is by nature a social animal,” said Aristotle. Some 2300 years later, research into happiness reveals indeed that’s what we are — social creatures. We need each other to thrive and stay alive. This begins as a biological need, and seeps down through to the rest of our lives.
And our friends are one of the most vital social relationships we can ever have.
For us, some of our loved friends exist only within an online world. Of these, most live on Facebook. Now, we don’t go to their homes. Neither do we share a coffee with them. Perhaps, we won’t ever get to touch them. But somehow we became a part of their lives, and they, ours. We feel sad in their sorrows and joy in their achievements. And still we know that perhaps we will never meet them outside that virtual world.
Oftentimes, our online friends outnumber our real world friends. In some cases, they are many times over than ever possible in normal world. The question begins to wiggle out of that crack. Research says the more connections we have, the happier we are. Then, can having many friends on Facebook make us deliriously happy?
Does Facebook Cause Depression?
There have been many studies on the effect of online social networks on our happiness, and there have been widely differing results. However, the meat of the matter under investigation in almost all of these studies is this: Do online friends deliver offline happiness? Do your Facebook friends reduce your happiness?
Does Facebook cause depression among its users?
We explore three standpoints here, each backed by adequate scientific data:
1. Spawns Envy And Jealousy
In a 2012 American Psychological Association article, Anderson, Fagan and others reviewed about 75 studies and pointed out several things related to SNS (Social Networking Services):
- “Facebook also has the potential to create real-world problems…, for example, site use can lead to increased jealousy, suspicion, and/or obsessive behaviour, as a result of opportunities it provides users to access…information about their partner that otherwise would not have been accessible.” (Muise et al, 2009)
- “We demonstrate that passive following exacerbates envy feelings, which decrease life satisfaction. From a provider’s perspective, our findings signal that users frequently perceive Facebook as a stressful environment, which may, in the long-run, endanger platform sustainability.” (Krasnova et al, 2013)
- “While positive feedback given via social networks can boost self-esteem, for negative comments the opposite can be true.” (Valkenburg et al, 2006)
- “Those with moderately high number of friends are perceived by others to be significantly more extraverted than those with few friends.” (Tom Tong et al, 2008)
This burden of envy on Facebook due to social comparisons can lead to depression. Since we’re on this, here’s how you can overcome Facebook envy?
Facebook can cause jealousy, envy, suspicion, and obsessive behaviour. Click To Tweet
2. Makes Us Unhappy And Lonely
A University of Michigan study by psychologist Ethan Kross, published in the journal PLOS One, found that increasing use of Facebook led to decline in moment-to-moment happiness and overall life satisfaction among college-aged adults. However, there were admittedly a few caveats to this study: There were just 82 participants, and the effects were relatively small.
The University of Michigan noted: “People were not more likely to use Facebook when they felt bad. In addition, although people were more likely to use Facebook when they were lonely, loneliness and Facebook use both independently predicted how happy participants subsequently felt.”
So, once again, Facebook may lead to depression among its most ardent users.
3. Expands Our Happiness And Sadness
We have quite a few studies supporting this, but we take up two:
- “It may be noted that those who feel lonely, because they lack close ties in the real world, could benefit from the ready-made support network provided by the Facebook pool.” (Bargh & McKenna, 2004)
- The next report comes from the biggest study ever done on the relationship between Facebook and happiness. A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that Facebook knowingly tweaked the algorithm to manipulate the news feeds of almost 700,000 users in a study to test “emotional contagion through social networks.”Some of those were fed neutral to happy feeds from their friends, while others were shown neutral to sad. The researchers wanted to know whether reducing the number of visible positive news feeds made people less likely to post positive content on their page.Analyzing data from 100 million Facebook users who posted nearly 1 billion updates between 2009 and 2012, James H. Fowler and his team showed that every emotion expressed online seeded 1 to 2 additional messages in the network expressing similar emotions, meaning the feeling was getting passed along.
They concluded, “With data from millions of Facebook users, we show…that online social networks may magnify the intensity of global emotional synchrony.”
This large scale study has a counterpoint, that Facebook may help spread depression among its groups. Rather, it may have just the opposite effect.
So, did Facebook raise your happiness? If it did, should you ‘confirm’ more friend-requests from strangers? By the way, did you know that you could hide your Facebook friend list from strangers?
Or, did Facebook cause you unhappiness and depression? If it did, can you ask Facebook to refund your happiness? Do they have a refund offer on happiness discounted by your timeline friends?
Real friends are irreplaceable — we can’t replace them with online friends any times over. It’s fine to have 1,000 friends on your social network. But just make sure to have at least 2 or 3 real-world authentic friends. Facebook, despite all its negative effects, can’t make us desperately lonely or hopelessly unhappy unless we let go of our real-world friends.
Often we’re too busy interacting with our online friends while sitting right next to our real friends. That’s a plight of our times. Here’s a video talking about the mobile habits of our times, by Gary Turk, who says, “It’s about making sure you are awake, alive and living life in the moment; instead of living your life through a screen,” Look Up:
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