, Salem, MA


August 20, 2013

Cookson: Does Facebook cause unhappiness?


Sure, there may be a jealousy factor involved, but here’s my theory: I think if people on Facebook are unhappy (and I’m not saying they are), it’s because their Facebook friends are always “liking” their bad news! Recently I saw the posting: “My best friend was in a very serious car accident.” And this posting received 12 likes! When I posted, “My dad took a bad fall and broke his shoulder,” I only got six likes! My friend Liz told me jokingly that I might have gotten 12 likes if he’d broken a hip.

Yes, I do understand that when someone hits “like” under a post, it doesn’t mean they “like” your discomfort or bad news but rather it’s a way of showing solidarity with you — “I’m sorry for your pain. You’ve got my prayers.” But to me, it doesn’t come across that way. Someone posts, “I just got fired” and their friends “like” it. Frankly, that’s sad! And how sad that there’s no “dislike” button so the only way for people to show they care about you is to take the time and trouble to post a comment or — as the next best thing — to “like” your unfortunate situation!

All of this aside, though, the flood of good wishes you receive from Facebook friends on your birthday will more than make up for any slight you might be feeling the rest of the year. Before I joined Facebook, I’d get maybe 10 birthday greetings tops, and two were from my parents, who are my parents after all, so they’re sort of obligated. But since joining Facebook, each year on my special day, I’m bombarded with well-wishers near and far and from as far back as grade school making me feel like a celebrity. And sure, even though you know intellectually that everyone gets this royal birthday treatment, it still goes a long way in making you feel special, so maybe someone should factor that in to the happiness survey.

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