By SARAH WANG, junior
It’s seized the world with its illusion of connectivity. It’s an immense, yet largely undetected, cause of teenage dissatisfaction. It’s one of the most addictive and dangerous things to enter our collective consciousness.
It’s social networking. Sites like Facebook and Tumblr have largely commandeered our social lives; the influence they now hold over us is unprecedented and is rapidly becoming more alarming. When angry or upset, many people use Facebook as a way to rant about their everyday troubles, like the math test they recently failed, the mountain of homework they received from every class, or the finals they never studied for. But can airing their grievances on these sites actually improve their moods? What about simply using these sites to keep themselves busy by catching up with friends and seeing what others are up to? Perhaps not. Recent studies have shown that using social networking sites—especially, but not limited to, Facebook —can, in fact, make people feel worse.
Researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a study in which they analyzed the moods and habits of eighty-two active Facebook users in their twenties for two weeks. Five times a day, each participant was asked via text message for feedback on his or her feelings and worries after using the social networking site. The study found that the more these participants used Facebook over the two week period, the less satisfied they were with their lives. However, these frustrations were not reflective of the users’ original moods; according to Ethan Kross, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, “It’s not the case that people use Facebook more when they feel bad. It is something unique about Facebook use that makes people feel worse.”
Why is that? It certainly seems strange that a site designed for self-expression and connecting with others could make us feel sad—but it’s true. A large reason for the misery caused by these sites is, ironically, the happiness of your friends. Although we may not like to admit it, envy is an unavoidable part of our lives. Every minute we spend on any social networking site, we are flooded by the overwhelmingly positive emotions in our friends’ status updates and messages, such as “OMG, got an A on the history test!” or “Just bought this new dress for the prom” or “Lol, made the soccer team…” These posts can cause some of us to feel miserable. Certainly, there are many people who post troubled statuses on Facebook; however, our brain simply filters out such posts and focuses on ones that make us jealous. Consequently, we become increasingly unsatisfied with our lives and want more; in our search for perfection, we forget that we can and should be thankful for what we already have.
The unhappiness that comes with this “Facebook effect” also results from the fact that Facebook, to put it bluntly, wastes time. Let’s face it—how much time do we spend on Facebook every day? An hour? Two hours? Perhaps even more than that, right? Facebook allows us to connect with friends even when we are not physically together. While this is an effective means of communication, it also decreases our willingness to get out and do concrete things, to find our friends and talk to them in person rather than through the impersonal barrier of a computer screen. “Lol,”.“omg,” and “yolo” simply don’t convey the same..meanings that actual spoken words snd phrases do. With sites such as Facebook, we content ourselves with these flimsy proxies replacing face-to-face conversation and inadvertently waste hours sitting in front of a computer screen. All the statuses and updates in the world do not replace the sanctity of actual human interaction; in the long run, addiction to a digital world will result in a solitary and isolated lifestyle. Without physical people in your life, it’s only natural to be depressed.
Unhappiness begets more unhappiness. To end the cycle, we must stop this obsession with social networking and look at reality. These sites can be useful in moderation; they are, after all, intended to bring us closer to our friends and family. However, these sites do just the opposite. A website should never keep anyone from spending valuable time with loved ones, and it should certainly never cause anyone melancholy. Don’t live life in a digital world—turn off the computer and go find your real friends, wherever they are.