There are many reasons to avoid Mark Zuckerberg’s monster: the mounting invasion of privacy, the addictive nature that has likely consumed more than a healthy amount of your time or even a strong dislike for the creator himself. If a new study conducted by Stanford University rings true, however, there may be a whole new reason to avoid the social networking site altogether.
Facebook makes you lonely. A paper recently published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that, “People underestimate negative emotions and overestimate positive emotions even for well-known peers.” In layman’s terms, everyone else is having more fun and other people rarely get sad. As a recent article in Slate explains, the study was inspired when a researcher observed that his friends “seemed to feel particularly crummy about themselves after logging onto the site [Facebook] and scrolling through others’ attractive photos, accomplished bios and chipper status updates. They were convinced that everyone else was leading a perfect life.”
We all know that Facebook profiles display the most exciting, intriguing and pleasurable experiences of people’s lives. If you were to rely solely on Facebook to gauge how fulfilling and interesting your friends’ lives were, you would likely get an incredibly skewed picture. If you believe that everyone around you is having more fun, evidenced by their biased representations on Facebook, while not realizing the real misery that also may be occurring, you’re likely to start feeling pretty gloomy.
These findings can certainly be applied to areas beyond Facebook. Broadcasting only the best attributes of one’s life did not originate with the Internet or social media. People have always expended enormous amounts of energy to “keep appearances.” Facebook profiles are really just an extension of the human tendency to display only the positive aspects of their lives while others assume that they are seeing the entire picture.
The study also reinforced previous findings that people can’t judge how sad others are. Subjects in the study “consistently underestimated how dejected others were – and likely wound up feeling more dejected as a result” according to the aforementioned Slate article. Things most of us have dealt with that the majority of people around us have never known about. Those outside our inner circle are likely oblivious of some real hurts that may have occurred or are still occurring. You never really know the whole story.
Everyone is dealing with something, most just never show it. And what they do show on their Facebook profile and other social media sites, is hardly a representative sample of how their life is going. Appearances can be deceiving. Just ask Mark Zuckerberg, the man with 500 million friends, over a billion dollars in net worth and yet beneath the surface is likely one of the loneliest people in the world.