Facebook is a great tool to keep up with family and friends, share pictures of your kids, ask for advice, keep others posted about what is happening in your life and learn what is happening in other people’s lives. I have some friends from college that I don’t talk to regularly, but I know what is happening in their lives through Facebook, so when I do have a chance to reconnect with them on the phone, it makes reconnecting easier.
Since its inception in 2006, Facebook users in the U.S. have grown to 116,010,760, or more than one third of the U.S. population of 309,003,000 according to Mashable Social Media.
Facebook: An Overly Positive Look At People's Lives?
While Facebook has many positive aspects, there are also downsides, one of them being Facebook envy, a new phenomenon that leads to Facebook users feeling depressed or unhappy with their lives when they compare their own life to their friends and acquaintances’ lives as documented on Facebook. I learned about this early on.
I have a friend who lives several states away. I know that she has trouble with her husband; he works hard at his job, but when he is home, he often goes upstairs and spends hours on the computer. She misses spending time with him, as do her children. However, if I didn’t know her better, I might be envious of her life because when she posts on Facebook, she only writes about the positives in her life, and I even venture to say she makes things look more positive than they really are.
Early Show technology expert Katie Linendoll states, “Most of us tend to play up the positive aspects of our lives while excluding the negative. The result is that a Facebook profile never tells the whole story. And we end up comparing ourselves to a one-dimensional version of someone else's life.” Because I know my friend so well, I know her life is not necessarily the ways she chooses to portray it on Facebook. Armed with this knowledge, I read all of my acquaintances’ posts with a bit of healthy skepticism.
Facebook Can Lead To Keeping Up With The Joneses
In addition to believing others have better relationships than you do, you may believe others have more fun and more money than you. In short, Facebook has become yet another way to compare yourself to others. It has become an electronic view into the lives of others that makes you want to keep up with the Joneses.
Psychologist Dr. David Swanson told CBS News, “What you put on display is how great your life is — the cars you drive, the vacations you go on. Nobody's life is that perfect and so, whenever you start to compare your life to those images, you're going to be depressed, because you're going to feel like your life is lacking.”
If we are not careful, Facebook can lead us to spend more money, either to keep up with what are friends are doing or because we are depressed that we can’t keep up with what our friends are doing. The simple fact is that we almost never know exactly what is going on with other people. We don’t see behind closed doors; we don’t know exactly what their relationships are like. We don’t know if they have debt; we don’t know of their financial struggles. Perhaps instead of comparing ourselves to others, we should see Facebook for what it truly is—a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, and a way for our friends to reveal the way they wish their lives were, not necessarily the way they actually are.