SEP 26, 2016 5:15 AM PDT

Facebook and Happiness

There have been dozens of studies done on the impact of social media on a user’s emotional state. Most are not very positive, their results suggesting that social media can lead to isolation, feelings of inadequacy, depression and even addiction. A new study recently released however is making headlines for another reason. It says that using Facebook, the giant of social media platforms, can make a person feel as satisfied as having a child or getting married. That’s right, this study from Carnegie Mellon University says that  users who see other people click the “Like” button or make a unique comment on something they post, report feelings of personal well-being similar to that of major life events like birth or marriage.
 
This is how the study worked. It involved a survey of 1,910 Facebook users from 91 countries all of whom were recruited from an ad on the social media site The mean age was 46.3 which is about 15 years older than the average Facebooker.  Over a period of three months study participants reported on their reactions to Facebook content as well as their overall feelings of satisfaction in their lives. They were also asked to report any major life events like a new family member, a death or a marriage. The researchers also monitored their Facebook activity during this same time. 
 
What? A few friends comments and likes and it’s the same kind of mental boost that a newlywed or new parent gets? According to study author Moira Burke that’s exactly what the study showed. In a press release from CMU she stated,"We're not talking about anything that's particularly labor-intensive. This can be a comment that's just a sentence or two. The important thing is that someone such as a close friend takes the time to personalize it. The content may be uplifting, and the mere act of communication reminds recipients of the meaningful relationships in their lives." She further explained that 60 of these special comments from close friends over the course of a month was the magic number to reach the wedding/baby level of happiness.
 
Not everyone is buying it though. In an article for Fusion, writer Taryn Hillin looked closer at the study and explained a few issues with it. The main one was that Moira Burke is employed by Facebook as a research scientist, so the question of bias must be considered. In addition the two events that are spoken of, getting married and having a baby, were only experienced by a very small number of the study volunteers. 4.1% reported “a pregnancy or welcoming of a new family member” which is rather vague, since a new family member could be a grandchild, niece, nephew or any other family connection. The number of participants who got married during the study was even smaller, 2.4% according to Hillin who spoke with Burke for the article.
 
The study was published by the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. While some questions have arisen from the study, the data was obtained via monitoring (that participants consented to) rather than a survey that depended on a user’s recollections of their online activity, so the researchers believe that makes it more accurate than other studies. The video below says more, check it out.

Sources: Carnegie MellonFusionJournal of Computer Mediated Communication 
 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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