A study has shown that seeing edited, two-dimensional snippets of information from other peoples’ lives is making Facebook users miserable, because they start comparing what they see in their newsfeeds with their own lives.
Psychologist Mai-Ly Steers says: “One danger is that Facebook often gives us information about our friends that we are not normally privy to, which gives us even more opportunities to socially compare.
“You can’t really control the impulse to compare because you never know what your friends are going to post. In addition, most of our Facebook friends tend to post about the good things that occur in their lives, while leaving out the bad.”
Add to that the fact that research shows that only 1 in 5 people are actually truthful on Facebook (in other words what you’re being aggravated by in your newsfeed is probably either a lie, exaggerated or not the full picture) and you’re unlikely to come away from Facebook sessions feeling happy and brimming with joy, instead of seething.
Karen Hyde, 36, from London, tells Lumity Life magazine that she was criticised by friends of friends who saw her posting happy, smiling pictures of herself online, shortly after her boyfriend Jake Andrews, 39, died in a motorbike accident last year:
“I was going through the worst time in my life, but if I went for a rare night out then of course I would put my make-up and best clothes on and try to smile for the camera,” Karen explains.
“People who didn’t really know me very well or who hadn’t seen me for years saw the photos being posted on Facebook and started saying nasty things behind my back: They were sniping that I didn’t seem to be all that upset that Jake had died and that I was having the time of my life when of course my putting on a brave face was a coping mechanism for extreme grief.
“They were only seeing a tiny fraction of my life as the rest of the time I was at home in bed sobbing my heart out. As well as being devastated, I had all kinds of financial worries as the home I bought with Jake and planned to raise a family in was eventually repossessed as I could no longer afford the mortgage payments on my own.
“I was only leaving the house when my friends were coming over and forcing me into the shower, doing my make up for me and dragging me out to have a break from all the misery for a few hours.”
Karen continues: “Of course I didn’t want to write all of this on Facebook so I posted happy photos only instead of pouring my heart out, mainly so people wouldn’t be worried about me.
“To hear that random acquaintances were looking at smiling photos and not saying, ‘Good for her, she’s making the best of a terrible situation’ really hurt. I’ve deactivated my account now as it was all so toxic and I only spend time with close friends and family – just like I used to years ago.
“I feel so much happier for not being on Facebook and I am glad I’m no longer wasting my time chatting back and forth with people who I would never see or talk to in the real world. I’m dealing with my grief in a private and healthy way and life feels more authentic now – I much prefer it that way.”
Emma Kenny, the psychologist behind the brilliantly clever website MakeYourSwitch, tells Lumity that she wishes that people would do regular social media detoxes, as well as ditching their mobile phones for an entire day every weekend.
She says: “I’m a massive advocate of social media detoxes and believe that social media is bad for us because it’s normalising things which aren’t real.
“We’re encouraged to falsely believe that we’re connected to other people when in fact we’re not and that often compounds feelings of loneliness.
“People end up seeking validation from people they barely know who aren’t even in the same room as them and probably never will be and wanting likes on their status updates and photos.
“The answer is to look at why you’re seeking validation from near strangers, and instead go out and connect with the people in your real life – focus on building and strengthening your relationships with your close friends and family, not people online.”
Emma suggests: “Leave your phone at home at least one day every single weekend, go out and enjoy the world and really savour what you’re up to rather than sitting wasting time and worrying about what people are saying in a virtual one.
“Eventually the panic of being without your phone will subside and you’ll love feeling focused on the here and now instead of ignoring everyone around you and tapping away on your phone.”