Seeing Other People’s Happy Lives On Facebook Makes Us Depressed

joyA new study suggests that viewing everyone else’s cheery updates and pictures on Facebook makes us feel even worse about our own crummy existences. Of course, online sharing often takes the form of a sort of competitive, veiled bragging, an effort to make it appear that we’re having fun and finding fulfillment. Slate explains:

“Misery Has More Company Than People Think,” a paper in the January issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, draws on a series of studies examining how college students evaluate moods, both their own and those of their peers. Led by Alex Jordan, who at the time was a Ph.D. student in Stanford’s psychology department, the researchers found that their subjects consistently underestimated how dejected others were–and likely wound up feeling more dejected as a result. Jordan got the idea for the inquiry after observing his friends’ reactions to Facebook: He noticed that they seemed to feel particularly crummy about themselves after logging onto the site and scrolling through others’ attractive photos, accomplished bios, and chipper status updates. “They were convinced that everyone else was leading a perfect life,” he told me.

The human habit of overestimating other people’s happiness is nothing new, of course. Jordan points to a quote by Montesquieu: “If we only wanted to be happy it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are.” But social networking may be making this tendency worse. Jordan’s research doesn’t look at Facebook explicitly, but if his conclusions are correct, it follows that the site would have a special power to make us sadder and lonelier. By showcasing the most witty, joyful, bullet-pointed versions of people’s lives, and inviting constant comparisons in which we tend to see ourselves as the losers, Facebook appears to exploit an Achilles’ heel of human nature. And women—an especially unhappy bunch of late—may be especially vulnerable to keeping up with what they imagine is the happiness of the Joneses.

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  • Jordan

    “The human habit of overestimating other people’s happiness is nothing new, of course.”

    I agree that one’s perception plays a dominant role in this situation, however, it is not unlikely that social-networkers post things to deliberately mislead friends, coworkers, and family into believing their lives are flawless. This may just go hand-in-hand with that other article about the “e-personality.” I do believe if one believes it is real, then it will become real (i.e. posting exaggerated status updates in hopes that ones life will fall into alignment), however, if you don’t believe it then you’re just a liar. :)

    I exited Facebook over 9 months ago when every status update I read was ‘baited,’ or I didn’t ever see anyone having a “bad day.” Not that I revel in that type of thing, but it’s refreshing to see that the people you know aren’t robots and detached from every aspect of human emotion.

    Just another way to life without facing reality. This should be classed with drug and alcohol abuse. It seems to have the very same ripple effect on the lives of everyone around the user. Flame on. :)

  • Jordan

    “The human habit of overestimating other people’s happiness is nothing new, of course.”

    I agree that one’s perception plays a dominant role in this situation, however, it is not unlikely that social-networkers post things to deliberately mislead friends, coworkers, and family into believing their lives are flawless. This may just go hand-in-hand with that other article about the “e-personality.” I do believe if one believes it is real, then it will become real (i.e. posting exaggerated status updates in hopes that ones life will fall into alignment), however, if you don’t believe it then you’re just a liar. :)

    I exited Facebook over 9 months ago when every status update I read was ‘baited,’ or I didn’t ever see anyone having a “bad day.” Not that I revel in that type of thing, but it’s refreshing to see that the people you know aren’t robots and detached from every aspect of human emotion.

    Just another way to life without facing reality. This should be classed with drug and alcohol abuse. It seems to have the very same ripple effect on the lives of everyone around the user. Flame on. :)

    • Tjmediastream

      Yes!; I was about to post something along those lines but U beat me to it, and I have also considered leaving Fb because of similar reasons, I’ve gotten tired of reading how ‘this’ person has had too many beers or how ‘that’ person laugh his/her ass off, I mean, why waste my time reading mostly garbage.
      Naaa, they are not quite happy, actually they feel sad and alone so they write the contrary so people don’t see the truth.

      Some things I’ve noticed is that a few of my female friends are always writing how happy they are of being a single mother, how the child she have is the best thing that ever happen to her (not that it isn’t I guess), or how she loves that she’s single because she can go to any party and stuff,
      Or for example, I have this one friend, he is a nice guy, but the 95% of is Fb post go something along the lines of “geez, havin’ beers at my uncle’s”, ”omfg I am so wasted” and “at the bar with my dwags, great time”. And I actually know for a fact he is not that happy, from when I saw him frequently a few years ago.

      So no, they are not that happy, in fact if you are one of the few people that has not much to write in your facebook, chances are you have a a heck of a lot more fulfilling life that they do.

      ps. I see that to post I have to put either my e-mail, twitter or facebook… lol funny imagine me posting this with my Fb account; wow that would be something to follow :-D

  • Tjmediastream

    Yes!; I was about to post something along those lines but U beat me to it, and I have also considered leaving Fb because of similar reasons, I’ve gotten tired of reading how ‘this’ person has had too many beers or how ‘that’ person laugh his/her ass off, I mean, why waste my time reading mostly garbage.
    Naaa, they are not quite happy, actually they feel sad and alone so they write the contrary so people don’t see the truth.

    Some things I’ve noticed is that a few of my female friends are always writing how happy they are of being a single mother, how the child she have is the best thing that ever happen to her (not that it isn’t I guess), or how she loves that she’s single because she can go to any party and stuff,
    Or for example, I have this one friend, he is a nice guy, but the 95% of is Fb post go something along the lines of “geez, havin’ beers at my uncle’s”, ”omfg I am so wasted” and “at the bar with my dwags, great time”. And I actually know for a fact he is not that happy, from when I saw him frequently a few years ago.

    So no, they are not that happy, in fact if you are one of the few people that has not much to write in your facebook, chances are you have a a heck of a lot more fulfilling life that they do.

    ps. I see that to post I have to put either my e-mail, twitter or facebook… lol funny imagine me posting this with my Fb account; wow that would be something to follow :-D

  • Anonymous

    I have never ever even entered Facebook, let alone sought membership, because descriptions thereof in sources I trust, lead me to the conclusion that it is a hall-of-mirrors for narcissists.

  • Anonymous

    I have never ever even entered Facebook, let alone sought membership, because descriptions thereof in sources I trust, lead me to the conclusion that it is a hall-of-mirrors for narcissists.

  • robertpinkerton

    I have never ever even entered Facebook, let alone sought membership, because descriptions thereof in sources I trust, lead me to the conclusion that it is a hall-of-mirrors for narcissists.

    • $4251815

      Something tells me nobody would want to add you anyway.

    • Apple1

      No, that’s Twitter.

  • Blamma
  • Blamma
  • Blamma
  • Anonymous

    Something tells me nobody would want to add you anyway.

  • Apple1

    No, that’s Twitter.

  • 926

    Why not put on a happy facebook? I thought when you smile, the whole word smiles with you. This is true, more often than not, walking the streets amongst strangers, stranglers, cocowranglers and jeep-driven badland handlers.

  • 926

    Why not put on a happy facebook? I thought when you smile, the whole word smiles with you. This is true, more often than not, walking the streets amongst strangers, stranglers, cocowranglers and jeep-driven badland handlers.

    • Alex

      No the whole world ignores you and has more friends than you. I’m not bitter… Oh wait, yes I am.

  • Alex

    No the whole world ignores you and has more friends than you. I’m not bitter… Oh wait, yes I am.

  • rolloutthebarrel

    That’s a funny thing about people… Some will inevitably think seeing happy posts by others *MAKES THEM FEEL* depressed.  Talk about taking a passive role in life.  Oh no, external stimuli is forcing me to react in a negative way and feel bad.  Waaaah. People control their own emotions and reactions.  You face forward, or you face the possibility of SHOCK AND DAMAGE! 

  • rolloutthebarrel

    That’s a funny thing about people… Some will inevitably think seeing happy posts by others *MAKES THEM FEEL* depressed.  Talk about taking a passive role in life.  Oh no, external stimuli is forcing me to react in a negative way and feel bad.  Waaaah. People control their own emotions and reactions.  You face forward, or you face the possibility of SHOCK AND DAMAGE! 

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