Is Facebook making us sad?

Posted on 01/29/2011 in misc

A study at Stanford suggests that encountering all our happy friends and their perfect lives on Facebook is making us feel like crap, when we realize our lives don't measure up.

I can believe that on some intuitive level. If you are trying to start a family and are confronted daily by the blow by blow updates of six friends that are pregnant, it has to be difficult to stay happy for them without wallowing in self-pity. Likewise, reading about the perfect marriages of your high school friends as you go through your second divorce can't be fun either. Of course, the study totally ignores the opposite set up, where we get great joy from seeing that the cheerleader that wouldn't give us the time of day in high school is now a chain smoking card dealer in Vegas with 3 kids by 3 different fathers.

I don't think I have this problem though. Maybe it's because I've been on-line for so long. I realized a long time ago that this blog, my Facebook profile, and my LinkedIn profile are all at some level, performance art. So I assume the same about everybody else. The joke in the article about the opposites being true probably really does hold true. The more perfect somebody's life looks on Facebook, the more likely it's mostly fabricated.

As an aside, writing this I was just reminded of a study I took part in about 10 years ago. They had people that had never met me complete a questionnaire based only what they learned reading this blog. (this was when blogs were the social networks). Then they had 3 friends that I suggested complete the same survey, based just on knowing me. The correlation between the two groups was supposed to say something about how honest I was on-line. It turned out I had near perfect correlation. I've always attributed that to laziness. Maintaining one life is hard enough. I don't have the energy to keep up a fake life on-line!

Is Facebook making us sad? Stanford University research and Sherry Turkle's new book Alone Together suggest that social networking may foster loneliness. - By Libby Copeland - Slate Magazine.

PS. It also occurs to me that a platform that makes you feel like crap about your life is sort of the ideal place to sell stuff. I'm just sayin'...

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