, Salem, MA


August 20, 2013

Cookson: Does Facebook cause unhappiness?

Here’s a bit of news you’ll either “like” or not depending on your point of view: A recent study links Facebook use to unhappiness.

The study by researchers at the University of Michigan surveyed 82 young adults over a two-week period, sending them text messages five times a day asking how they were feeling and how much time they’d spent on Facebook since the previous text. And guess what? The researchers correlated increased time spent on Facebook to a drop in mood.

Gee, I’m all for scientific studies, but do you think that receiving texts all day long asking, “Are you unhappy? Are you bored? Are you lonely? What about now?” could have caused those 82 people to feel out of sorts? If people were scrutinizing me like that, I’d certainly be unhappy. It’s like watching one of those medication ads on television — “Do you suffer from…” and thinking, “Hey, yes, that sounds like me!”

Anyway, it seems that the creators of the study have a theory that people tend to mostly share on Facebook about their good times, so seeing friends’ photos and postings about happy occasions might cause people to feel subpar if their lives aren’t measuring up.

I can relate since one of my Facebook friends is an opera singer who travels the world and sometimes posts photos taken from the villas where she stays, generally in romantic places like Austria. Seeing her status updates is a bit worse than viewing a friend’s fabulous vacation photos. At least with the vacation photos, you’re thinking, “Now that does look nice but how much is it costing?” In the case of the opera singer, someone’s paying her to travel to Florence or Venice. Now that’s enough to make anyone feel subpar, especially one who’s pondering something like, “Should I spend the $25 to go to Good Harbor beach today or stay home and clean the basement?”

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