Facebook and Emotional Well-Being: Three Ways to Keep Things Positive
Imagine that you just returned from a tough day at work and decided to unwind by checking Facebook before dinner. Still thinking about how your boss was a real jerk today and about how you're going to manage the bills after the company-wide pay cuts, you come across your friend's photos of his two-week vacation to Hawaii. He looks really happy. He's staying at an expensive resort and posing for pictures with expensive cocktails in his hand. And you just want to slap him upside the head.
Has your evening (or day, or week, or worse) ever been ruined by Facebook? You're not alone. According to a study by German researchers, envy and a host of other icky emotions are rampant on Facebook.
The researchers found that 1 out of 3 Facebook members felt worse after visiting the site and less satisfied with their lives. Interestingly, passive members (those who browse but do not really contribute) felt the worst of all.
I used the example above because the study indicated that vacation photos created the highest levels of resentment. Levels of social interaction made people feel pretty green as well as they compared the numbers of "Likes," comments, and wall posts they received to those of their friends. Participants reported feelings such as misery, loneliness, frustration, and anger in addition to envy. The researchers suggested that the negative consequences of Facebook might undermine any positive effects of the social medium.
I am saddened by this study's results, though I understand them. Most methods of communication and social connection yield the potential to do wonderful things as well as to cause tragic harm. If you find that you feel worse rather than better after using Facebook, here are some tips to enhance your emotional well-being:
Choose your friends carefully. If your buttons seem to get pushed by certain people or by those you don't know very well, it's okay to keep your circle of friends small. In fact, choosing only close friends and family who you know are supportive of you can actually be nurturing. Choosing fewer friends will lessen your exposure to other people's lives and reduce your temptation to make comparisons between your life and theirs.
Focus on giving rather than receiving. Instead of posting thoughts, links, and pictures with the hope of receiving responses and affirmations, focus on supporting and affirming others in your network. By giving others positive feedback, you have taken the focus off of receiving and are giving yourself an emotional boost in the process.
Set limits on your time. If Facebook tends to upset you and you spend hours there every day, you are inviting difficulty into your life. If you must remain involved, set firm limits on your time spent on Facebook and stick to them.
Facebook is not for everyone. For me, it's a wonderful way to connect with family and friends, particularly those I don't get to see that often. But I see it in its larger context - it's one of many ways that I maintain social connections, and if it didn't enrich my life, I wouldn't continue to use it.
Krasnova, H., Wenninger, H., Widjaja, T., & Buxman, P. (2013). Envy on Facebook: A hidden threat to users' life satisfaction? 11th International Conference on Business Information Systems, Leipzig, Germany. Online: http://warhol.wiwi.hu-berlin.de/~hkrasnova/Ongoing_Research_files/WI%202013%20Final%20Submission%20Krasnova.pdf