How Facebook Makes People Unhappy
Use of communication technology has changed the way people stay in touch in various social groups. The various channels of communication through internet are referred to as social media. They enable users to socialize by sending messages, sharing videos and updating their experiences on internet. One of the causes of widespread and intensive use has been the convenience enabled by internet enabled mobile phones. Thus, people can chat from any location and in real time. In 2004, a social network called Facebook was developed and took the world by storm. Statistics on the usage of the website are astounding, with approximately 1.3 billion subscribers worldwide in the decade long existence. Emergence of television technology had been described as the greatest development in communication forever developed by man. However, Facebook has overtaken television with its capabilities and popularity across the world. It has created a global network preferred by many, sometimes over face-to-face communication. The developers described it as ‘‘a social utility that helps people communicate more efficiently with their friends, family and coworkers’’ (Wise et al. 555). Facebook has become a means of communication and fashionable due to the large network. Communication enables individuals to relate their needs, wants, thoughts, knowledge, and feelings to other people. Consequently, the way people use Facebook to communicate and share information affect peoples’ feelings. Do Facebook and other social networks cause effective communication? Keller (10), in an article, “social media and interpersonal communication” says that that face-to-face communications builds better relationships than distant communications. Also, sociologists have suggested that despite the advantage of increased connection, social media can cause negative emotions. Does Facebook have the potential to cause sadness?
How does Facebook cause sadness in people? In order to understand how Facebook affects emotions, it is important to understand how people use Facebook and the information they seek. One of the uses of Facebook has been status update, whereby people write their experiences on their wall. According to Leon Festinger (1954), there is an in-born tendency of people to compare themselves with others. On Facebook, people share their good experiences and achievements on the walls. They post their nice photos, for example, after buying a new dress, sharing vacation photos and even photos of their new body shapes after gym or surgical operations. Upward social comparisons can cause feelings of under-achievement, envy and dissatisfaction with own life. Consequently, some people develop low self-esteem, depression and negative self evaluations. (Steers et al. 703). A research carried out at Midwestern University among 736 students with a median age of 19 years confirmed the link. The researchers concluded that “Facebook can be a very positive resource for many people, but if it is used as a way to size up one’s own accomplishments against others, it can have a negative effect.” The negative feelings were observed mostly among the frequent users. Similar findings were reported in a recent research by Happiness Institute at Denmark. In the survey carried out among 1,095 users, whereby some volunteered to stop using Facebook during the study. More of the people who stopped reported that they felt happy than those who continued using. The results were 88 percent among those who stopped using Facebook and 81 percent for those who continued to use it.
In a research published in 2010, Wise et al. show the various ways in which people seek information from Facebook. One way is using Facebook to interact through instant messaging and email. Mostly people use the strategy when communicating to friends on the network, who could be acquaintances from school, work, church or family members. Other users have the intention of acquiring information on other users. Wise et al. refer to it as active use. The third group use Facebook to extract information and share it on other internet websites such as blogs. The fourth category is passive and prowl into other peoples’ profiles, status updates and group discussions. Thus, people use Facebook to browse or search information on top of interaction. Conversation on Facebook can be in form of writing harmful information about a targeted person or to the person. Because people open accounts with fake names, a bully can use Facebook to harass, threaten, humiliate, embarrass or even torment another. Cyber-bullying has been highly associated with Facebook among young adults. A research in United Kingdom described the network as the most common platform used by online bullies (Gale n. p). The information posted on Facebook is not verified to be true. Although Facebook is used to share information, some people share false or unconfirmed news. The information can depress the people involved and damage their careers or relationships. In a 2011 Consumer Report, 1 million children were cyber-bullied in 2010 in United States.
Facebook comments have led to loss of jobs. Expressions of anger and abusive comments can lead to loss of job. For example in a case Media General Operations v NLRB, the employee was found guilty of abusing the boss (Teitel 5). Thus, despite the freedom of expression being a right, the limits apply also to Facebook like other communication media. Nonetheless, sometimes people fall into the trap of using Facebook illegally. Facebook has also been a destroyer of love relationships, with statistics from American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers indicating that 20 percent of divorces are caused by Facebook. Flirting, infidelities, excessive use of Facebook and sex texting are some of the issues that cause break ups in marriage. It also enables people to communicate with ex-lovers through messaging. However, the information can accidentally go public and hurt the current relationship (Das & Jyoti 226). Excessive use of Facebook can be addictive leading to loss of productivity, study time as well as time for other duties. Sometimes people are unable to sleep or work as they chat or follow activities from Facebook updates or news-line.
Despite the perceived negatives, Facebook has also being a source of happiness to some people. Facebook is a source of social capital that creates ties in the society. Social capital has been associated as a predictor of happiness and well-being. By sharing positive emotions, the messages pass to others and can lead to feelings of encouragement to the broken. Also, Facebook has been used by people to share inspirational messages. Such uses can lead to happiness. Moreover, ability to share relational goods with friends increase happiness and maintains social relations (Pénard et al. 107). It would be right to therefore conclude that understanding how people use Facebook is important. It would avoid deceptive portrayals and filtering of information. Much as it is a social network, people need to be careful in sharing personal information to avoid theft of the information. Thus, much as some actions can lead to sad consequences, happiness can also be derived from using the social network
Das, Biswajit, and Jyoti Shankar Sahoo. “Social networking sites–a critical analysis of its impact on personal and social life.” International Journal of Business and Social Science 2.14 (2011): 222-228.
Gale, Damien. “Facebook is the worst social network for bullying with 19-year-old BOYS the most common victims.” Daily Mail. N. p., 15 March. 2013. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.< http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2294023/Facebook-worst-social-network-bullying-New-survey-shows-youngsters-targeted-online-else.html#ixzz3tdM9QYmx>
Keller Maura. “Social Media and Interpersonal Communication.” Social Work Today 13.3 (2013): 10.
Kross, Ethan, et al. “Facebook use predicts declines in subjective well-being in young adults.” PloS one 8.8 (2013): e69841.
Pénard, Thierry, Nicolas Poussing, and Raphaël Suire. “Does the Internet make people happier?.” The Journal of Socio-Economics 46 (2013): 105-116.
Steers, Mai-Ly N., Robert E. Wickham, and Linda K. Acitelli. “Seeing Everyone Else’s Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 33 (2014): 701-731.
Teitel, Jared. “Fired Over Facebook: The Consequences of Discussing Work Online.” WJ Legal Stud. 2 (2012). N. p., 19 Nov. 2012. Web. 7 Dec. 2015 http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1061&context=uwojls
Wise, Kevin, Saleem Alhabash, and Hyojung Park. “Emotional responses during social information seeking on Facebook.” Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 13.5 (2010): 555-562.