Facebook is like a happy family album, with people posting positive updates and inspirational affirmations. But is all this happiness making us unhappy?
A recent study suggests the answer is yes. The study conducted by PLOS one followed 82 people by text message over a 14-day period. The results indicate that the more participants used Facebook, the less satisfied they were with their lives.
Another study says that “passive following” on Facebook could lead to envy and a diminished self image. The study attributed this “envy spiral” to the proliferation of self-promotion and reputation management on social networking sites.
Really? All of the shiny, happy people make us wish we lived more awesome lives?
Not to worry, the likelihood is that people are editing their experiences on social media to make their lives seem better than it really is. Remember those pictures of all the smiling faces from your friend’s last vacation? What you don’t know is that the trip probably sucked and your friend only shared the happy highlights. And a lot of times, the people who buy those designer bags can’t really afford it, but they want others to believe they’re on trend.
It’s not like we turn to social media for reality or anything. Especially not when examining our own lives.
In fact, a study conducted by Catalina Toma, Assistant Professor at UW-Maddison, suggests that looking through your own positive timeline could improve self-esteem. Go figure, looking back on how awesome your life has been through the Facebook lens makes you feel better about yourself.
Indeed, it is a vicious cycle of self-promotion, reading the self-aggrandized posts from friends, a spiral of envy and looking through our own profiles as a reminder of just how fantastic we really are.
What does all of it mean? The tendency to edit our experiences on Facebook is a form of social signalling — a sociological term usually referring to when people buy things as an outward signal of their social status – that projects the image of self actualization. Ultimately, we’re all faking it and constantly trying to prove that it is, in fact, a wonderful life.
Maybe we’d feel better if we stopped gauging our lives based on social media and engaged in the real world instead.