Is Facebook Making Us Miserable

Long, long ago, when I was a young lad. Researchers put in a lot of time and effort studying the affect of television on young minds. Fast forward to the 21st century and researchers have been trying to quantify how social media affects users. A new study out of the University of Copenhagen answer’s the central question, “does Facebook cause us to feel miserable?”

It is.

It is.

Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding, YES.

Key Takeaways

  • The more you use Facebook the more susceptible you are to feeling miserable.
  • Everyone can benefit from taking a week off from social media.
  • We still can’t say for sure that Facebook causes us to be less happy.

I have a number of friends who just turned themselves off of Facebook after the 2016 US Presidential election. I had some friends who only logged on to thank people for wishing them a Happy Birthday. Fox News Radio invited me to do a round of interviews to provide some insight into a new University of Copenhagen study on the effect of heavy exposure to Facebook. I think it’s the most comprehensive study we’ve seen to date about this.

The case study’s author, Morten Trumbolt, performed the study while working on his graduate degree. His study, is one of the most thorough experiments on the effect of heavy social media usage and whether abstaining from the Big Blue App will give you more peace of mind, greater life satisfaction, and better interpersonal relationships.

Trumbolt studied the behaviors and recorded the feelings of 1100 dutchwomen, and men. 86% of the study’s participants were women who were on average, 34 years of age, had an average friend count of 350 friends, and spent over an hour on Facebook per day. He divided the group into three groups:

  • Active Users – people who self-identify as heavy users who read posts and participate heavily by making comments, liking posts, and updating their timeline.
  • Passive Users – people who check in periodically, don’t comment heavily, and update their timeline.
  • Lurkers (my term) – people who in general don’t post or comment, and just browse Facebook.

The experiment was conducted for one week. Participants were given a 15 minute questionnaire for analysis and he randomly divided the participants into a treatment group, NO FACEBOOK FOR 1 WEEK, and a control group; JUST DO WHAT YOUR NORMALLY DO AND USE FACEBOOK NORMALLY.

His findings?

In general, the more heavily you use Facebook, the more effective the treatment of cutting yourself off cold turkey. For people who are heavy users who suffer from Facebook envy, participants reported having greater life satisfaction and better emotional well-being. The net effect of taking a week off gradually decreased according to your usage. The less often you use it the better you feel. The more you use it, the worse you feel.

For me personally, I take a detox a few times a year. At the beginning of the year, and at my birthday. I’m just off of the thing. And I feel great. When I’m on hiatus, my mind is clearer, I get a lot more done, and I feel better in general.

We paint a picture of our curated selves on Facebook. We enjoy sharing our vacations, concerts we’ve been to, and fancy plates when we are out to dinner. For many out there in the ethersphere seeing watching Facebook LIVE updates of our friends in Cuba while we’re freezing our asses off downtown can lead to varying levels of depression. Cutting cold turkey for a week can do you some good.

Trumbolt also asks whether or not this new brand of connectedness is good for us. Here’s an excerpt from the paper:

“Millions of hours are spent on Facebook each day. We are surely better connected now than ever before, but is this new connectedness doing any good to our well-being? According to the present study, the answer is no. In fact, the predominant uses of Facebook—that is, as a means to communicate, gain information about others, and as habitual pastime—are affecting our well-being negatively on several dimensions.”

If you’re suffering from Facebook envy, there really is only one thing you should do and that’s to walk away from Facebook for a while. Here are 5 steps you can take to walk away:

  1. Make up your mind that you are going to quit Facebook for a while.
  2. Do not log into the Facebook web page.
  3. Delete the Facebook app and its companions off of your phone.
  4. Ignore the nag emails from Facebook telling you how many of your friends miss you.
  5. Enjoy the real world.

Don’t be afraid of deleting the apps from your phone. You won’t be causing any harm. Facebook still has your data and credentials.

You might be asking yourself, “what should I do with my time, now that I’m not wasting it on Facebook?”

Here are some ideas in no particular order:

  • Get some stuff done. We all have a laundry list of things we need to finish or start. Spend that accumulated hour completing stuff in the todo pile.
  • Read more. Preferably on a device you have to turn real paper pages to scan.
  • Call someone. You’ll be amazed of the effect a telephone call can have on a person. Even if it’s someone you dialog with on Facebook.
  • Actually reach out and touch someone.
  • Start a novel, painting, sculpture, musical score, or that think you wanted to start. You’ll never believe how easy it is to get caught up in a creative pursuit when you have more brain cells and clarity to devote to it. Instead of reading alt-right pages, or liking anti-Trump pages, or commenting on some fool’s timeline, clear the fog and focus your energies on something meaningful.

Facebook, Twitter, and other networks have made the world smaller and connected us with friends, family members, and acquaintances who are now half a country away or live right around the corner from us. The digital world creates a sort of mental dissonance giving many of us the ability to craft perfect images of ourselves while giving us a platform to share opinions and make statements we wouldn’t otherwise make face-to-face. Furthermore, the digital world has skewed the meaning of the word friend, and made us dependent on the constant accumulation of these friends to fuel our dopamine trip. Unfortunately, for some, when perusing our friends’ lives and browsing their awesome vacation pictures from Cozumel, their kid’s straight A-report card, or learning about their differing political views can lead to envy, disappointment, and depression.

If you feel yourself sliding down a Facebook hole into depression, it’s time disconnect.

Do it now.

P.S. If you can’t tear yourself away from Zuck’s vision of positive social interaction, then you need to muster some discipline:

  • If Trump related news stories upset you, keep scrolling.
  • Use the unfriend and unfollow features liberally.
  • If you post stories but don’t like trolls, use the block feature.
  • Stop commenting.
  • If you can’t stop commenting, read your comment to yourself out loud, then read the comments from your peers in the thread. Will your comment change their mind? Hold down the backspace button and scroll on.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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