We – as in, us humans – have a complicated relationship with social media. When you take in the entirety of human history, this technology is basically brand new. Never before have we had the ability to communicate with one another as instantaneously, or to peek into the lives of people who are both familiar to us and complete strangers.
Naturally, many studies have been conducted in an attempt to pinpoint whether social media (and in particular, the juggernaut Facebook) is good or bad for you – mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. We’ve seen studies saying that taking a weeklong break from Facebook markedly increases your happiness and other studies stating that stalking your ex on Facebook is actually (scientifically) really bad for you (duh).
But surprisingly, one recent study is now flipping the script and stating the complete opposite: Facebook can actually make you just as happy as any traditional, major life event.
In a recent study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University and Facebook researchers, scientists have found that personalized interactions on the popular social media platform can have a hugely positive impact on the user’s well-being and general happiness.
The study’s press release – titled “Friends help friends on Facebook feel better” – specifically stated that said interactions “can have a major impact on a person’s feelings of well-being and satisfaction with life just as much as getting married or having a baby.”
Say what? Right off the cuff, this seems like a pretty bold, fantastical claim, but the data actually backs this up. The study was published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication and was based on 1,910 Facebook users from 91 countries. Each of the users agreed to have their Facebook activity tracked over several months and to answer monthly surveys about their mood and satisfaction.
The researchers then paired up the Facebook activity with the survey responses and found out something pretty interesting: One-click likes from acquaintances don’t do much, but personalized comments from and interactions with already close friends “were associated with increases in users’ psychological well-being as large as those associated with major life events.”
“It turns out that when you talk with a little more depth on Facebook to people you already like, you feel better,” researcher Robert Kraut, a professor in Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute, said. “That also happens when people talk in person.”
Moira Burke, a research scientist at Facebook, added: “This suggests that people who are feeling down may indeed spend more time on social media, but they choose to do so because they’ve learned it makes them feel better. They’re reminded of the people they care about in their lives.”
This is pretty huge news, given previous studies stating that social media can make users actively unhappy, but the distinction between personalized versus depersonalized interactions makes this study’s results a lot more understandable. Of course, interacting with our friends will make us feel better when we’re feeling down – and Facebook provides a way to instantaneously seek and receive that positive reenforcement when you need it most.
Clearly, it all depends on how you’re using Facebook – lurking around your ex’s page is, 9 times out of 10, not going to make you feel super great, but communicating with friends and building connections absolutely will.
Ultimately, instant access to your loved ones when you need them is hands-down one of the best aspects of social media!