Facebook user studies report less happiness, reveal selfish motives

A recent group of studies once again show us why managing social media, especially Facebook, is vitally important.

In his study about the effects of Facebook on users, University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross found users of Facebook to be less happy when they used Facebook frequently, compared to when they spent less time on the site. He also said their loneliness levels increased while their satisfaction levels deteriorated. A group of researchers in Germany also saw negative effects of Facebook use, finding envy and jealously of others increases among heavy Facebook users.

But in another study, researcher Sebastian Valenzuela said using Facebook actually makes us happier and establishes greater social trust.

While these studies seem contradictory, it really is the findings of yet another study that help to put things in perspective. The study, conducted by Carnegie Mellon, found that when users are actively engaged on Facebook, i.e., not mindlessly scrolling through their newsfeed, they seem to be happier and feel more connected to society.

These studies prove a valid point. It is not always how much time we spend on social media, though time is an important consideration, but how we are engaging with social media.

We’ve all heard the cautionary tales about frittering hours away on Facebook, but the bigger question is why we are on there in the first place. If our intent in using Facebook is to check the lives of those around us and compare our possessions, talents and wealth to them, then it’s understandable that we would be unhappy.

But if we approach Facebook with a specific goal to share our Christian beliefs and worldview, using social media suddenly takes on a new meaning.

We, as Christians, have the unique opportunity to use social media platforms as a tool to build friendships, to share news and to encourage one another, all while spreading the Gospel. We don’t have to preach in every status we post, but we can use the small, daily interactions we have online as chances to show the differences in our lives because of Christ’s work for and within us.

There’s also a trend to use Facebook and other social media sites as a way to present our best selves. Our profile pictures are perfect, we rarely post about our faults, and we manage our profiles in such a way that other people see only the things we want them to see or know. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does merit caution. Are we trying to present ourselves as something we’re not? Is what we say on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram the truth, or merely embellishments of what we wish our lives were like? Perhaps the biggest lesson we can learn from these studies is the needed reminder that we can’t compare our lives to other people.

Unless our lives are firmly grounded in Christ as our sole source of happiness, then our feelings will be easily swayed when seeing how other people live, what they drive, the food they eat and how great they look. Let’s keep social media in perspective, remembering it should not dictate our emotions, especially happiness.