Does Social Media Improve Your Life?

April 8, 2013

social media propaganda

By Amy Hackworth.

If you’re on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you’ve certainly had this experience: you’re scrolling along when suddenly you see it—an exotic vacation photo, an update about a really cool job, or maybe a living room makeover that you wish were yours. And just like that, an ugly sinking feeling has gripped your insides and won’t let go, even though you feel terribly guilty for feeling it in the first place.

If you’re on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you’ve certainly had this experience: you’re scrolling along when you come across some wonderful, exciting, awareness-expanding news—a link to a great TED talk you’d never have found on your own, a YouTube video that has your family laughing for days, or the news that an old friend just had twins after years of infertility. And just like that, you’re so thankful for this amazing world of social media that lets us share each other’s lives, ideas and thoughts so readily.

Social media, like life, offers us a crazy array of good and bad, and researchers are hard at work, winnowing out the effect it’s having on our lives. “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” a 2012 Atlantic article considers the contributions of Facebook to a national increase in reported loneliness. One study reports that the way we use Facebook can potentially increase or decrease our loneliness really interesting. For example, passive clickers tend to be lonelier, but active users who engage in and receive personal messages report a decrease in loneliness. But the amount of in-person, real life contact seems to be the ultimate determiner in the lonely vs. less-lonely debate. Apparently, people who use Facebook as one of many social tools to connect with friends face-to-face report less loneliness versus people who use it solely as an online, observational tool.

And another study cites the benefits of using Facebook as a trip down memory lane, reporting better moods when you review your own wall, and your own photos. Linda Sharps’s article cites a number of other interesting studies and accurately describes the changing discourse about Facebook: “It’s good for you! Wait, it’s bad for you! It’s good in small amounts! It’ll kill you stone cold dead! It’s good if you use it in this one specific way!”

So…how have you enjoyed the benefits and navigated the pitfalls of social media? Can you avoid the temptation to compare yourself to someone else online? And do you find it’s true that you enjoy reviewing your virtual life history via social media?

P.S. — Remember these funny social media propoganda posters?

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April 12, 2013 at 9:04 am

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Justin April 8, 2013 at 10:18 am

I love Facebook! And I always wonder what things would have been like for me in high school if there had been Facebook way back when. I probably would have embarrassed myself at a rate of 62% more than I did without Facebook.


2 Tiffany Lewis April 8, 2013 at 10:30 am

Hey Amy! This is such a great conversation starter. I don’t use Facebook that often, but every time I do I discover some life-altering news about a dear friend. So great! However, when I scatter my own thoughts on so many spaces like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, I sometimes feel like Voldemort, splitting his soul into seven pieces. Mastering discipline and time-use with social media is simply a byproduct of our modern lifestyle.


3 Amy Hackworth April 8, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Hi Tiffany! Well said. It’s just something we have to learn to do in this new world we live in.


4 Kirsty April 8, 2013 at 10:30 am

I think about this ALL the time. This is a really great, well researched article, I found it fascinating, thanks! I wonder if we are happiest after we review our own page/photos because it is most often a collections of the happy/positive things about our lives? Some people say that this makes facebook/instagram and social media in and of itself inauthentic but I really think that there is a lot of value in highlighting and archiving the good in our lives.


5 Amy Hackworth April 8, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I agree, really well researched and full of interesting stuff.

It’s sort of like we’re creating online scrapbooks, and certainly those tend to highlight the good. I think it’s important to archive the REAL, which does include so many good things.


6 Lisette Wolter-McKinley April 8, 2013 at 10:54 am

I think you need to first decide how much time you want to devote to social media each day and stick with that. It is easy to get sucked into social media and feel the need to always know everything about everyone. I have chosen to not join Facebook, but I update my blog regularly and just recently started to use Pinterest and Instagram. I think it is important to maintain face to face relationships before virtual ones.


7 Amy Hackworth April 8, 2013 at 1:06 pm

I agree that our face to face relationships need to remain most important. And I like your idea of pre-determined social media time. Very wise.


8 Angela April 8, 2013 at 10:59 am

I think overall facebook is good for me. But I really like my life, and I wouldn’t want to trade with anyone else, so I don’t usually fall into facebook envy. BUT I try to limit my time on it, because I’ve noticed the happiest times of my life by far occur OFFline.


9 Amy Hackworth April 8, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I love your approach, Angela. What if all our time-management decisions were based on how much joy they brought us? I think you’re on to something there.


10 pve April 8, 2013 at 11:03 am

Absolutely, social media has added so much happiness to my life. I’m here aren’t I?
I have a site, a blog, pinterest, facebook….and twitter, which I don’t really understand but I love all the happy visuals and the connectivity and enthusiasm.


11 Jennifer F. - American Mom in Bordeaux April 8, 2013 at 11:34 am

I would certainly say as an expat where so many of my friends and family are back in the States – facebook, twitter & instagram has been so great to stay connected. Especially in the beginning adjusting to a new culture, it helped balance me. I do feel more connected and happier as I see what is going on with family, friends and other bloggers. However, it is necessary to keep the perspective that its a glimpse of life, a snapshot of what is happenning – we all experience the good, and the bad in life – day to day. I also agree it’s important to balance viewing social media and “living” one’s life. Go out and live, enjoy and love life – then share it. Thanks for the balanced look at social media…it’s so true it’s good and its bad – it’s all about how we use the tools.


12 Emily April 8, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Really interesting topic. I find Facebook to be a great way to reengage with people I have missed and to connect to others. Same with Pinterest. But I hear a lot of people say Pinterest makes them feel inadequate and Facebook makes them think everyone is publicizing a life that isn’t accurate. These are not my experiences. And the more I hear people complain about social media, the more inclined I am to think it’s not about the social media, but about what the people take from it–much like everything. Regardless, thanks for your gentle framing of the conversation. Interesting to think about.


13 Amy Hackworth April 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Yes, I think it’s definitely how we approach it that can make the difference. Thanks for your comment, Emily.


14 Brittany at The 1000th Voice April 8, 2013 at 12:30 pm

I’ve noticed myself pulling back from Facebook as I rush headlong into Twitter and Pinterest. Although the entire point of the medium is to reconnect people, I don’t often interact with long lost people on Facebook. There are a few key people who I don’t often see that I interact with as much as possible.

Twitter and Pinterest provide me more value. I’ve curated the people and boards I follow, so I’m seeing things that inform, entertain or inspire me.


15 Adrienn April 8, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Pinterest is amazing, I love how it inspires me. I recently joined Instagram as well which is great to be creative a bit with those tiny snapshots. Facebook is fun and easy to stay connected with friends all over the world if I want.


16 Bonnie @ the pin junkie April 8, 2013 at 6:24 pm

I love Pinterest and I think it has improved my life. I’ve tried tons of new recipes, made a few crafts, and I’ve even been inspired to do a few home improvement projects!


17 Vandegee April 8, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Definitely will read the article. I am not on Facebook, or twitter, or pinterest, etc. I have a very ordinary, common name (think: Jane Smith) and it has afforded me a certain anonymity in my life (you’d have to spend a long time trying to figure out which number was mine in the phone book, back in the day) and I’m kind of used to it at this point… not sure if I’m ready to give that up. Sometimes I’m tempted to join facebook, and to be honest, it’s getting harder to avoid. But I guess I’m just a luddite at heart!


18 Carol F. April 8, 2013 at 10:37 pm

I love facebook! I have always wanted all my friends in one room and facebook is the closest I will get to that in this life.


19 Rachel April 8, 2013 at 10:54 pm

For the most part, I’ve always felt like they’re too misused to uplift our lives. They have some wonderful perks – staying in contact with friends, seeing photos of loved ones, hearing about what’s going on in the lives of others – but, like everything else, they’re is always a downside. Some will use social media sites to their fullest potential – it will be uplifting and good and not always a time waster. But almost anything, if not everything, can be abused, and I think social media is severly abused. For me, I’ve learned it’s best in small doses, and only used for what I inteded it to be.


20 Regina April 9, 2013 at 12:42 am

I admit that I’ve felt both the ugly as well as the amazing feelings while scrolling through Facebook and Instagram. I’ve found that if I’m feeling particularly low, or if I’m questioning certain things in life, I start noticing things on my Facebook feed that I wish I had, or adventures that I wish I could do. (It’s made my bucket list a little too long!) However, if I then hop over to my timeline and check out my own posts and albums, it never fails to make me realize that my life is also filled with adventure and fun, love and family, and heck, I like my life! I just forget it sometimes.


21 Loni April 9, 2013 at 5:39 am

Great discussion….

on our local news channel, they did a survey of Facebook users; some said they would rather have a root canal than give up Facebook…made me laugh. But, you so nailed the good and the bad….I just wonder how long it will stick around till something else comes along….


22 Julie April 9, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Love those vintage posters! Hilarious!!


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