What is Social Media Doing to Your Happiness?
Your success and happiness lies within you. Resolve to keep happy and your joy and you will shall form and invincible host against difficulties. ~ Helen Keller
Impacts of Social Media
We are all, well most of us, at some level addicted to a form or two of social media. Many of us check our Facebook page more times than we would like to admit each day. The innovation of smartphones, this wonderful device that connects us to nearly the entirety of all knowledge, has also turned into a form of an electronic leash. Smartphones are wonderful, in addition to being a link to the web and all that means, it also has the opportunity to make us more effective and efficient humans. Sitting in waiting rooms, waiting on people, sitting in a taxi or on a train is now time that we can use to conduct business, return correspondence, make appointments, etc… However, many of us utilize this time frivolously, checking on what are friends are doing, reading celebrity gossip, getting sucked into the news cycle. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for downtime and relaxation and keeping up on friends and relatives, that’s been a wonderful of benefit of social media. But honestly, that feels like a small part of what we do, myself included.
People are cognizant of their own image and because others are viewing us, most of us make an effort to put our best foot forward on our social media accounts. We get a good feeling when we get likes and comments, so we focus our posts on the cool things in our lives. There is an interesting piece I read recently on the effect of social media and how it can increase envy, comparison, anxiety and depression. I really like this quote from the article.
Through social media we have a continual window into the lives of friends, pseudo-friends, and celebrities. And what we see is not some unvarnished peek into their world but a highly idealized image that they present. We see only the most exciting images from their vacations, the happy faces of their friends, and children, accounts of their continual self-improvement, the fascinating people they are meeting, the great causes and projects they are involved in, the example of success in their endeavors. — Robert Greene, The Laws of Human Nature
The article is a great read and it describes how we naturally compare ourselves to the people we follow on social media. It talks about how this can fuel envy and especially how we often compare ourselves to the posts that we see. Not thinking about the fact that we are only seeing the glossy, photoshopped version of other people’s lives, we compare that to the reality of our own lives, warts and all and we feel bad.
Politics and Social Media
In addition to the envy created by watching others on social media, there is another thing that really impacts our happiness. In an ever polarized political world, social media is the place where we are constantly exposed to political ramblings, arguments, and lots of information that causes us anxiety. Particularly when we get into one-on-one arguments over political issues, our happiness takes a hit. And it’s nearly impossible to avoid all of the political memes, statements and rants that are out there. We’re all guilty of it one way or the other, particularly because posts about happiness and good news, get far less interaction and likes than the political stuff. This tells the algorithms used by the platforms to prioritize those posts more, it’s a vicious cycle that we are complicit in encouraging with our choices.
Our Happiness is under our control
There are very few times when our happiness is not under our control. As I just mentioned, our interactive choices on social media impact what types of posts get prioritized and shown to us. So, the more you like, comment on and share things like the Ministry of Happiness posts, or good news items, the more those things will show in your news feed or on whatever platform you’re using.
Also, controlling your time on social media can help. Even though it’s become a habit for most of us, instead of checking our phones constantly, pick certain times to review Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others. Or, like some people, you can take the big leap and delete the apps off of your phones and only access social media at set times on your laptop or desktop computer.
Finally, and this will be no surprise to longtime readers, read a book or some poetry, get outside, take a hike, go to the gym and during those times keep your phone off. We need these breaks from social media and especially if you can do that by going outside you’ll have happier days my friends. ~ Rev Kane