Can Less Time on Facebook Increase Your Happiness? Yes!
The emotional price of comparing with others on Facebook
Posted Aug 11, 2013
Does the time you spend on Facebook lift you up, bring you down, or give you mixed emotions? Here are some recent findings on Facebook users:
- Over 33% of Facebook users report feeling unhappy during their visit (1).
- Envying Facebook “friends” is the major reason for the unhappiness (1).
- People who browse but do not actively communicate on Facebook are particularly vulnerable to feeling unhappy (1)(2).
- The longer the hours spent on Facebook, the higher the likelihood of believing others are happier (2).
- The more we amass Facebook “friends” we don’t know, the higher the likelihood of believing others are happier (2).
- The more we interact face to face with friends, the lower the likelihood of believing others are happier (2).
- Facebook comparison may be especially impactful for women (3)(4)(5)(6).
One of the easiest ways to feel unhappy is to compare ourselves unfavorably with others. When we’re on Facebook, we’re susceptible to undue influence of our “friends’” glossy representations of themselves. Even when we know consciously that Facebook profiles are often nothing more than social billboards, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing our real lives with others’ advertisements of themselves.
“Looking at happy pictures of others on Facebook gives people an impression that others are always happy and having good lives.”
– Hui-Tzu Grace Chou
To be sure, Facebook has clear and multiple benefits. The focus of this article is on what you can do if using Facebook is a mixed or negative experience for you. Below are 5 tips if and when Facebook causes you to feel unhappy.
1. Start a Facebook Diet
This first tip seems obvious, but it works! Stop or reduce your time on Facebook. Life is too short to feel bad while looking at others people’s idealized representations.
2. Be Honest About Your Emotions
Acknowledge any unhappiness that you may experience while browsing Facebook. Know that you have the power to make these feelings go away (see tips #4 & #5).
3. Have a Facebook Reality Check
“Envy can frequently lead to users embellishing their Facebook profiles, which, in turn, provokes envy among other users.”
– Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Facebook is "like being in a play. You make a character,"
– from Alone Together
When you feel unhappy while browsing Facebook, remember that many, if not most of your “friends’” profiles are forms of personal advertisements. Most people tend to post what’s positive (or dramatic) in their lives. It’s what they want you to see, rather than how their lives really are.
4. Kill Your Facebook Related Negative Thoughts
Using a list of common Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS) identified by Neuro-Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen, here are some ways we may think negative while on Facebook:
Always/never thinking – Making generalizations in the negative, such as “I’m never invited to their gatherings.”
Focusing on the negative – Socially comparing ourselves in the negative, such as “How come my life is not as cool as hers?”
Thinking with your feelings – Believing your negative feelings to be real, such as “I feel lousy; I must be a loser.”
Guilt beating – Beating ourselves up for not having what others have, such as “I’m a bad mom because I didn’t give my child a big birthday party like she did.”
Labeling – The tendency to negatively judge yourself or others, such as “He’s bragging on Facebook again!”
Personalizing – Believing other people’s postings are poor reflections on you, such as “She has more 'likes' for her Facebook comments than me - what’s wrong with me?”
Dr. Amen developed an easy to practice exercise called "ANT Therapy - Killing our Automatic Negative Thoughts," which helps to reduce or eliminate our negative emotions. Click here to learn about ANT Therapy.
For information on reducing or eliminating over fifteen types of negative attitudes and feelings, see my book (click on title): "How to Let Go of Negative Thoughts and Emotions.”
5. “Like” People, Nature, Animals, and Exercise More Than Facebook
The next time Facebook gives you the blues – log out. This simple act shows that it is YOU who has the power. Instead, engage in activities that make you feel good, such as call or visit a loved one, enjoy nature, play with a beloved pet, or have a stimulating workout. Goethe reminds us: “Nothing is worth more than this day.” How will you live your life to the fullest today?
“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.”
– Steve Jobs
For more on personal and professional success, see my books (click on titles):
© 2013 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.
(1) Buxmann, P., & Krasnova, H. (2013). Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users’ Life Satisfaction. 11th International Conference on Wirtschaftsinformatik.
(2) Chou, H. G., Edge, N. (2012). They Are Happier and Having Better Lives than I Am: The Impact of Using Facebook on Perception toward Others’ Lives. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.
(3) Watkins, C., Lee, H. E. (2010). Got Facebook? Investigating What’s Social About Social Media.
(4) Goudreau, J. (2010). What Men And Women Are Doing On Facebook. Forbes.com
(5) Copeland, L. (2011). The Anti-Social Network. Slate.
(6) Shapira, I. (2010) Infertile couples cope with prolific Facebook friends. The Washington Post.