How Does Social Media Impact Our Happiness?
Most people in the world these days have at least one social media account. Some people have many. I myself have Facebook, four Twitter accounts, five Instagram accounts, two Google + accounts and very little time to do anything else in my life. Recent studies have shown our increasing interactions with social media platforms are having a negative effect our happiness levels. Many problematic and concerning links have been found between social media and our happiness levels. Read on to find out more.
We Never Switch Off
The first thing I do in them morning is check my social media accounts. That also happens to be the last thing I do before I go to sleep. My day is book-ended by social media, interactions with people across the globe through a tiny piece of technology. Amongst millennials like myself is an innate need to feel constantly up to date, in the know, at the cutting edge. Whether that refers to the news, your friends’ lives, the lives of celebrities or anything else, everyone uses social media for different purposes. One thing is clear, however. It’s addictive. Accounts such as Twitter and Instagram in particular encourage users to gain followers, reach more people, get more likes, retweets, shares and every other measure of popularity the platforms can create. The simplest way to boost your number of followers is to interact more. Put more in, get more out. And people do. They dedicate a vast amount of their time to updating their statuses, tweeting, uploading photos and checking, constantly, on our friends and followers.
We’re Never Satisfied
For the most part, our timelines are filled with beautiful photos of amazing places, delicious food, adorably cute pets and loved-up couples. That’s because, putting the recent increase in political engagement aside, the majority of people choose to share the good times with the world, not the bad. Social media allows people to present a snapshot of their lives through, quite literally, a rose-tinted filter. We all do it, let’s be honest. Crafting a post with the perfect photo and witty caption to make all of our friends and followers green with envy can take an embarrassingly long time. But somehow when it comes to other people’s posts, we take them at face value. We see the azure oceans and the mountain-top views and the delectable cocktails and we think ‘wow, they have the perfect life’. Correction: they take photographs which make them look like their lives are perfect. Social media has been linked with depression in many studies; is it any wonder? People begin to consider their own lives boring and uninteresting and therefore don’t go out as much, choosing to sit at home on social media, feelings of jealousy and resentment building as they see endless photos of others ‘living the dream’. Except no-one’s really living the true dream here. The person posting desperately wants those likes and awestruck comments, and the people liking and commenting are quietly seething with jealousy. Bit dramatic? Perhaps, but you get my point. No one is truly satisfied with social media. It’s never enough.
We’re Losing the Ability to Connect
True, social media makes connecting to anyone across the world incredibly easy. But it’s virtual. It’s also, in the case of Twitter and Instagram, fleeting and superficial. A like here, a retweet there, an emoji comment. Yes, they’re interactions, they’re connections, but they take no effort, they can occur between strangers and they don’t form relationships. True, some people do meet friends and partners online; it can happen and these connections can be deep and meaningful. But they are few and far between. If you have a couple of thousand Twitter followers, how many of them do you really know? In most cases, you probably can’t recall their first name if it’s not in their handle. And yet you’re sharing your life with them and waiting impatiently for their interactions in return. All the while, real, flesh and blood people are mere metres away, strangers you could be forming friendships with if only you’d put your phone down for a second…
We’re Less Productive
With so many accounts to check (ok, mine may be excessive but in my defence half of them are for work), hours can be lost every day to social media. After all, the more you put in, the more you get out. Except that’s not true. At least, what we’re getting out of social media isn’t worth what we’re losing. Our jobs, for example, as the quality of our work and our commitment to our tasks goes so drastically downhill. Who cares if you have 5,000 Instagram followers if you can’t pay the rent?
Despite everything I’ve written and the research I read preparing for this article, I’m not about to shut down all of my social media accounts. I’m too weak. I need that validation each like and retweet offers me. I smile slightly when I get a new follower; someone I’ve never met, nor will ever meet. I will continue to bookend my day with social media because that’s what the millennial generation does. But I know I shouldn’t. I know these accounts have too great an impact on my happiness. I know I’m too entangled with the culture of social media to extricate myself. So I’ll keep posting, I’ll keep tweeting, I’ll keep sharing. And thanks to the fact that I live in a tropical country, most of my photos make it look like I’m living the dream anyway.
Oh, side note. If, like me, you’re a teensy-weensy addicted to social media, why not share your acts of kindness on the More Good Deeds app. You can tell all of your followers and friends on Twitter and Facebook about how you’re doing your bit to make the world a happier, friendlier place. Spread a little bit of good across your timeline and inspire others to do the same. You may even gain a few more followers …
Go. Do. Experience. More Good Deeds.