The constant debate over whether or not social media offers benefits or negative consequences has been around nearly as long as social media itself. Scientists have argued back and forth on the effects that can be incurred by excessive use of online interactions. In particular, Facebook has really accrued a tremendous amount of attention as its popularity is immense. Does Facebook make us happy? Or does it have a contrary effect? I don’t really think that it is so black and white.
NPR refers to a study conducted at the University of Michigan which demonstrates that people are made to feel worse about themselves after seeing a friend post about their own exciting lives. On the opposite end, ThinkProgress.org posted a study from the University of Portsmouth arguing for the positive effects of Facebook, and how seeing a notification and following that link may indeed make you happier. The latter article also focuses a lot on a nostalgia element, and how reminiscing on past events and photos may reduce anxiety and depression; “Yet this research shows we are more likely to use it to connect with our past selves, perhaps when our present selves need reassuring.”
I can certainly agree with the first article, and how if we spend too much time immersed and absorbed in Facebook, it can truly take us out of our own lives and away from physical people around us. When spending time with friends or family, we can become so focused on the digital world to connect to people who are not with us, while when we eventually do join their physical presence, we may try to interact with the people whom we have just left; I myself have found myself in a cycle in which I am constantly trying to catch up with people who I am not around, instead of the opposite.
With that in mind however, I think it is also very important to look at the other side. The latter article, arguing for the importance of connecting with our past selves, brings up some valid points as well. I use the application “Timehop”, which is very popular in both the Google Play Store, as well as the App Store. This app filters through social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and shows you the items that you have posted on this day last year, two years ago, etc. It is really exciting to see a post that you posted in the past, and how different things are. Seeing how much growth you have overcome, physically or emotionally, is really fascinating.
Lastly, the other benefits that Facebook, as well as other social media have to offer, is exactly what it was made for: connecting people. My sister, who I am very close to, lives in Los Angeles, California. We love catching up on life, movies, and any exciting events going on. Facebook offers a platform on which we can quickly interact, to briefly discuss a recent film we saw, or to share nostalgic, as well as sometimes embarrassing photos with friends and family. It is by no means a replacement to physical and tangible relationships, but when those are not always possible, it is definitely welcome.