For those of you who have not read my previous blog posts, I am the definition of a social networking junkie. I spend insurmountable time scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, Tumblr dashboard and Instagram and Twitter feeds, more time than I would willingly like to admit to. As it turns out, I am not the only one who does this, – perhaps you also mindlessly Facebook stalk until you end up on a colleague’s sister’s friend’s cousin’s page too? – and according to research, social networking sites have the capacity to alter our feelings and perceptions of ourselves.
Author and regular contributor to The New Yorker’s online news blog, Maria Konnikova wrote an article in 2013 exploring the findings of numerous researchers in the aim to confirm or deny whether Facebook makes us sad. Entitled ‘How Facebook Makes Us Unhappy’, Konnikova utilises the method of online blogging to encapsulate a wider audience, making her work accessible to a globalised set of readers, writers and social media users. In her work, Konnikova accommodates for a varied audience, focusing primarily on ensuring the information she presents is easy to understand whilst also being engaging. Konnikova makes use of a conversational tone in order to draw in her readers, making the topic at hand more attractive than what it would be if it were presented in another form.
In her summation, Konnikova draws on the extensive research formulated by external investigators to aid the reader in understanding the vast effects of social media. She provides a clear and unbiased approach to the subject matter, by not just looking at one side of the argument, but by also referencing how Facebook promotes happiness too. As Konnikova’s work is cited well, the reliability of her arguments is ultimately enhanced. The conclusions she draws are thus supported, as Konnikova argues that the role social media has in the formation of social experience is immense, not just for individual understandings of self, but for the expression of online personas too.
So, does Facebook actually make us sad? Konnikova discusses the extreme influence this social networking site, alongside others, has on emotional health and personal wellbeing. She correlates shifts in emotional state with the amount of time spent on social networking and remarks that these media platforms are addictive and time consuming. On the one hand, Konnikova presents Facebook in a positive light, noting “that it increases social trust and engagement—and even encourages political participation” (Konnikova, 2013). She reveals that this form of social contact promotes positive interactions with peers and allows those who would have formerly lost touch to remain involved in one another’s lives. To balance out the argument, Konnikova presents the contrary side of Facebook. The article highlights the effects the Internet has had on the lives of research respondents, noting that the overall consequence resulted in feelings of loneliness, envy and severance (Konnikova, 2013). Dependence on this social networking site has moreover been linked with “problems in relationships, by increasing feelings of jealousy” (Konnikova, 2013).
Drawing back on personal experience, I can certainly vouch for the claims Konnikova and the band of researchers she cites have made. Ultimately, things aren’t looking so great for me though. So how about you? Does Facebook, Instagram or Twitter influence how you feel about yourself or others? Are you happier or more deflated as a result?
- Konnikova, M., 2013, ‘How Facebook Makes Us Unhappy’, The New Yorker, September 10, viewed 4 April 2015, <http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/how-facebook-makes-us-unhappy>