Does Social Media Sabotage Happiness?

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146280426Technology and the Internet have yielded some amazing, even life-changing, advances including social-networking. This week’s burning tech question focuses on whether or not social media can lead to happiness or sadness, or both, or neither. It’s an issue that has been hotly debated over the last couple of years. Psychology Today put out an article all the way back in 2010 saying that research showed that in a social network, “happiness spreads among people up to three degrees removed from one another.” Fast forward to the beginning of 2012 when a Utah Valley University study received wide coverage by finding that Facebook was making us sad. This Slate article summarized the findings by saying, “By helping other people look happy, Facebook is making us sad.” Also check out this article by psychologist Graham Jones titled Buying From Social Networks Could Make Us Sad. So what’s the deal? What have you found from your own experience? To help you make up your mind, our excellent panel has weighed in and it looks like they don’t find much blame in the medium itself.

The Internet Isn’t Making Us Sad Any More Than TV Is Making Us Fat

ryan-fixedSaying that social sharing sites show the “best of the world” is like saying television only shows the Hollywood dream version of reality. The Web is like a realtime sample of humanity; it’s all the emotions at once. Joy. Rage. Empathy. A LOT of Schadenfreude. For years, Facebook’s killer feature was a complete accounting of all the people who didn’t like me in high school.

The Internet isn’t making us sad any more than television is making us fat, or cellphones are giving us short attentions spans. I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve here, but I believe it’s the most powerful force for innovation and creation in human history — a series of tubes that simultaneously made the world smaller and bigger than we ever thought possible, while giving us the ability to reach out without ever leaving our homes. The next round of dramatic innovations will be about making that power portable, ubiquitous, and sharing it with the next 2 billion people who’ve never experienced it.

Is the Internet making us sad? The only despair I feel is for those who might never realize that the Web is so much more than tweets and reblogs: that we can get under the hood ...

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