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?