Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=199787
Story Retrieval Date: 5/24/2013 8:22:36 PM CST
Ben Dacanay said sometimes Facebook is the only way he could reach people because he doesn't have their phone number or email address.
Facebook users: Life’s not fair!
People may be ceaselessly pushing the “like” button, but Facebook may actually be robbing them of their happiness, a Utah study suggests.
The social-networking site allows people to keep tabs on their friends and monitor acquaintances’ every little move, but are users just seeing a veneer of reality?
“People try to manage others' impressions of them – they want to be liked and they want to be perceived as competent,” said sociologist Hui-Tzu Grace Chou, study author.
Chou polled 425 undergraduate students at Utah Valley University, asking such questions as how much time they spent on Facebook each week, the number of “friends” they had and their perceptions of others’ lives.
Individuals who use Facebook often and for longer durations felt others were happier and believed life was unfair, concluded the December 2011 study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking journal.
This phenomenon is exacerbated when people have many “friends” they don’t personally know. These Facebook-only friends aren’t privy to tales of life’s trials and tribulations. Thus, they mistakenly believe others are always happy because of their personality rather than circumstances, the study reported.
Yet disgruntled users may be coming to false conclusions. Social-media users are able to manage their public personas because they can spend more time and “greater cognitive resources to edit the messages, carefully selecting photographs, highlighting their positive attributes, presenting an ideal self,” the study said, referring to previous research in computer-mediated communication.
Those who toil over presenting a positive image also risk “feelings of inadequacy” when there is a large discrepancy between reality and Internet persona, said Stephanie Tong, a communication assistant professor at the University of Puget Sound in Washington state.
Though the study’s results suggest people may feel sad when they see friends and acquaintances go through life’s milestones or go off on scenic vacations, Ben Dacanay, 34, said he likes to “rejoice in people’s triumphs.”
Even an infrequent user like Jewel Cooper, who uses the site for as little as 30 minutes a week, says Facebook has its drawbacks. “When I find out information via Facebook, sometimes that makes me sad,” she said. Finding out about a good friend’s marriage or engagement via a newsfeed makes her feel rejected, she said.
“They could’ve sent me a text or invited me,” she said.
Chou said the simplest solution to Facebook-induced despondency is to “make real friends: talk to friends, open your heart, admit your weaknesses and share your life experiences – both positives and negatives. Meaningful life stories are beyond all the achievements, celebrations, and happy pictures that we find on Facebook.”