If you’re one of those Facebook users who posts a picture a day of your awesome kids and family, know this: you’re bringing your most loyal FB friends (and “friends”) down. The more friends see pictures on Facebook, the more they believe your life is better than theirs and that life is not fair.
And all you thought your were doing was showing them the baby’s new tooth!
A study from Utah Valley University found that the more time spent on Facebook, the more we’re exposed to other people’s carefully culled, marvelously cute, upbeat and cheerful photos, leaving us with the impression that our life is kind of boring and that we never get to have any fun.
ABC News reported on the study, conducted by sociologists Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge. The team “interviewed 425 students, asking them whether they agreed or disagreed with such statements as ‘Many of my friends have a better life than me,’ and ‘Life is fair.'” They also recorded how much time these students spent on Facebook, how many friends they had and whether they actually knew these “friends.”
The researchers controlled for various factors like race, religion, etc., and came up with the following results (from ABC):
“Those who have used Facebook longer agreed more that others were happier, and agreed less that life is fair, and those spending more time on Facebook each week agreed more that others were happier and had better lives,” wrote Chou and Edge. “Furthermore, those that included more people whom they did not personally know as their Facebook “friends” agreed more that others had better lives.”
Those are kind of big deal findings, no? Here social networking was thought to help us from not feeling so alone or to always have someone to talk to — two things that should help us feel good, right? When in reality, it’s kind of bumming us out.
At the same time, the results aren’t all that surprising. FB is where we go to humble brag and show off — I mean keep others abreast of — our kids and awesome vacations and fabulous, fabulous nights out with the girls. And don’t tell me you’re putting up just any ol’ picture. For every snapshot of your day, there are at least a half a dozen others where someone was pouting (and not cute pouting) or the thighs didn’t look quite right. Facebook is sort of like reality TV, where the photos and updates feature flesh-and-blood people, but it’s all carefully edited so we can tell the story we want. Which for most of us? Is a good, everything’s great, look how happy we are just being our happy selves! kind of story.
The medicinal news that comes from the study is this finding: the less time people spent socializing on the Internet and the more time they spent with people in real … errr … IRL, the less unhappy they were.
So if you’re doing a lot of heavy sighing will digging through your timeline, you might consider just closing the window and calling — no meeting up with — an actual friend.
The study was published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.