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Facebook and sadness
January 29, 2011 7:59 AM   Subscribe

By helping other people look happy, Facebook is making us sad. The human habit of overestimating other people's happiness is nothing new, of course. Jordan points to a quote by Montesquieu: "If we only wanted to be happy it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are." But social networking may be making this tendency worse. Jordan's research doesn't look at Facebook explicitly, but if his conclusions are correct, it follows that the site would have a special power to make us sadder and lonelier. By showcasing the most witty, joyful, bullet-pointed versions of people's lives, and inviting constant comparisons in which we tend to see ourselves as the losers, Facebook appears to exploit an Achilles' heel of human nature. And women—an especially unhappy bunch of late—may be especially vulnerable to keeping up with what they imagine is the happiness of the Joneses.
posted by jason's_planet (106 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
Then it truly is the ideal advertising platform.

Lots of cheap to acquire product (us) available to its customers (their advertisers), where the product is collectively conditioning individual instances that their lives suck, so they should go buy something to make themselves feel better.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 8:06 AM on January 29, 2011 [21 favorites]


Aw. I wish I could lend these people some of my mopey emo acquaintances to cheer them up.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 8:09 AM on January 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


"what they imagine is the happiness of the Joneses", leads me to suggest The Happiness Of The Katakuris as another take on that.

This is an interesting theory. I suppose there could be a certain percentage of unhappy events, illnesses, and other awful stuff that we are obligated to post on our walls to keep FaceBook more balanced. It's only right that we have to look at a few really ugly puppies and not-cute kittens once in a while...
posted by HuronBob at 8:10 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heck - I don't even have a Facebook account and I've never been on Facebook, but just seeing Mark Zuckerberg's smarmy billionaire face in the news is enough to depress me. On the up-side, though, thanks to this post I have another affirmation of my no-Facebook policy, just another facet of the 24/7 social network craziness that I would be totally unable to handle.
posted by XMLicious at 8:15 AM on January 29, 2011 [14 favorites]


okay, this is serious, no snark intended: what if all these media types telling us in exquisite, rococo detail about all the ways we are making us miserable are making us Just. That. Much. More. miserable? And the continual barrage of stuff that gets put up / posted / shared around / popularised (on this site and many others) that serves to validate that OMG WE ARE SOOO MISERABLE MY EXISTENCE SUUUUCKS just reinforces this whole cycle of negative grar and angst.

I mean seriously, didn't we get enough of this angsty navel-gazey shit in the eighth grade? I mean I get it, modern life is stressful enough, and a lot of people have trouble coping with that but I have discovered that, at least for myself, I'm the only one responsible for making myself feel good about my life, and I just... get on with that. And trust me, I'm not about to let a bunch of media hacks tell me what's going on inside my own head.

And believe me I'm not letting Facebook off the hook on this one either. It IS a performance. It's your very own marketing campaign, and I don't think anyone with a reasonable amount of intelligence or introspection really disagrees with that. No one in their right mind is going to share all the mindless tedium and painful personal stuff on there, because that's just not how public image campaigns work.

jesus, I mean, seriously, all the news has told me for DECADES is how pretty much everything on the planet is circling the drain and how I should be miserable about that. I'm concerned about stuff, sure, and I try to make it in my interest to be involved.

But honestly, my lifestyle is pretty damn awesome. I wouldn't exchange it with anyone. I'm on Facebook and I'm not miserable. No amount of telling me how wonderful other people's life is going is going to change that.

I guess I'm missing the point. I'll stop now.
posted by lonefrontranger at 8:22 AM on January 29, 2011 [33 favorites]


My friends and I have developed this theory that the more any given Facebook friend loves and is overwhelmingly thrilled with her boyfriend/husband/kids, the more unhappy she really is. We've got a divorce record to back us up.

But without that, it *would* be kind of depressing, because if you took some of the updates of my "friends" at face value, they have perfect lives that anybody would envy. It's like the Mormon mom blogs. If they only talk about the good stuff, of *course* their lives look great. We self-censor a lot of what we tell the world in our updates, whereas we know all the sordid details of our own lives.

Thankfully, once realizing this, you can quickly shift to making snarky comments to your other friends about these things instead of feeling particularly bad yourself.
posted by gracedissolved at 8:22 AM on January 29, 2011 [19 favorites]


Facebook has a pretty good face recognition algorithm. I suggest that they utilize it to turn faces into sad, ravaged ones.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:28 AM on January 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


> Turkle writes about the exhaustion felt by teenagers as they constantly tweak their Facebook profiles for maximum cool. She calls this "presentation anxiety," and suggests that the site's element of constant performance makes people feel alienated from themselves.

That's the main reason I left. Is this status update witty enough? Is this photo cool enough? Is this link interesting enough? The stress never ended. Sure, it was pressure I was placing upon myself, but ultimately for me it outweighed the positive aspects of being on FB. It felt a lot like when I used to endlessly futz over my old Geocities page, which was mainly a billboard to advertise how awesome I was and how you should totally go out with me.*

YMMV.

* I am still awesome, but now I am married so you cannot go out with me.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:34 AM on January 29, 2011 [14 favorites]


No one in their right mind is going to share all the mindless tedium and painful personal stuff on there, because that's just not how public image campaigns work.
It depends on what you're selling.

I don't really think everyone wants the same thing from their friends or society.
My friends and I have developed this theory that the more any given Facebook friend loves and is overwhelmingly thrilled with her boyfriend/husband/kids, the more unhappy she really is. We've got a divorce record to back us up.
Interesting. It's kind of surprising how different people are from their 'public' personas when you get to know them really well.
posted by delmoi at 8:35 AM on January 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


it follows that the site would have a special power to make us sadder and lonelier.

This is hands down why I left Facebook. Thanks for the link, I'm not going to second-guess my decision to leave anymore.

I had a party last weekend and two girls showed up and did the whole "I'm going to stare at my phone and be quiet for hours while I socialize on the internet" thing. They walked around taking pictures of my apartment and uploading them.

I can't really tell you what they took pictures of and what they had to say, because I'm blocked off from that, and in retrospect that's just kind of rude and depressing.

I think the next time I throw a party I'm going to ask that people turn off their phones or something. I went to a "no Facebook" wedding a few months ago and I thought the request was unusual, but now I get it.

Then it truly is the ideal advertising platform.

Could not agree more.
posted by phaedon at 8:45 AM on January 29, 2011 [12 favorites]


Maybe my friends are more open or honest than the Facebook users described here --- or maybe we just have worse filtering impulses.

When I look at my friends on Facebook, I see a pretty reasonable balance of emotional content. Right now, among the celebratory and happy stuff, I also see:
- a mom describing how hard it is to catch up on housework on the weekends, when all she really wants is to play with her kids
- a friend hilariously describing a nasty late-night meal at chain diner, and the ensuing nausea
- a widow talking about balancing existing love and happiness with the sorrow of her loss
- a master knitter (and admitted yarn snob) experimenting with acrylic yarn and liveblogging the results
- several threads discussing the events in Egypt
- a loved one's sorrow and anxiety over her very ill dog
- congratulations from one friend to another on a wonderful concert performance
- a distant friend's kitchen remodel, with photos
- a report of infant triplets with the flu (that one got pretty poop-graphic and I finally hid it)
- me kvetching (and, admittedly, joking in a showy way) about slashing open my hand in a kitchen accident

Maybe my friends don't use FB promotionally, so they're not always striving to present their best, shiniest, more professional faces. Maybe it's because my FB Friends list is composed of actual friends, people I'd be happy to invite to my home. Maybe it's because so many of my FB friends are web-savvy in general (which seems not to be generally true about FB users), so they easily view FB updates as conversational, open, easy extensions of their daily interactions. Maybe my friends and I are just mopey sadfaces. But FB doesn't present me with the shiny-happy stream of fake joy that is described here.

I admit to feeling the pressure of the described effect, and its backlash: yesterday, I left the house while The Fella was still asleep, knowing he would work until midnight. In the middle of our long day without seeing each other, I felt the urge to post "I miss you, [adorable petname]!" on his wall, where he might see it during the day. I stifled that urge because I thought it would look a little show-offy. I should have done it anyhow. SO WHAT WE'RE LOVEYDOVEY NEWLYWEDS SUCK IT HATERS.
posted by Elsa at 8:45 AM on January 29, 2011 [21 favorites]


But isn't any online community the same to some extent? I can't help but wonder if anyone sees my username here and only wishes they could be so winsome.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:48 AM on January 29, 2011 [18 favorites]


Metafilter: an especially unhappy bunch of late

But seriously ... what's up with this statement (emphasis mine)?

And women—an especially unhappy bunch of late—may be especially vulnerable to keeping up with what they imagine is the happiness of the Joneses.
posted by kcds at 8:54 AM on January 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


Nice post, it sort of articulates what the wife and I have been thinking about the facebook experience.
posted by Senator at 8:55 AM on January 29, 2011


I find that all my wonderful successful witty cool friends are easily offset by only two total perpetual trainwrecks.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 8:55 AM on January 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I avoided FB for a long time because I didn't think I could bear the success of long-lost high school people. Turned out I could -- because I really am happy when I can tell that they're really happy, because I liked them, and pretty much still do. The ones that I expect are really happy mostly post about their kids' tantrums and potty-training issues.

But if there's one thing that warms my hideous, slithering concatenation of a heart, it's hearing about what it's like to be the mother of yet another generation of perfect little Southern girls with surnames for first names, who are already going to sleepaway camp and cheer practice, whereas I never will marry and will be no man's wife, and am fled to the frigid lands and live with a little dog, next door to a library, and do as I damned well please. Got to take your entertainment where you can find it, these days.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:02 AM on January 29, 2011 [20 favorites]


There's nothing worse than pieces which purport to represent "us." It is the shoddiest type of writing--to take the thoughts of the writer and universalize them.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:07 AM on January 29, 2011 [18 favorites]


I have a friend whose every update describes how easy and wonderful her life is, complete with descriptions of the exotic drinks she consumes and reports on the sports she's watching and run-downs of the art she creates and adventurous social outings she goes on and reports of how content and beautiful her life is. Unlike many people on facebook, I feel that it's a fair reflection of her life--she's an eternal optimistic, in a comfortable situation right now.

And even though I love her, it still kind of makes me want to punch her in the face.

(She often also "likes" her own status updates often, a contributing factor.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:09 AM on January 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Big Chill, 1983 movie, two old friends talking after long time no see...

Sam Weber: So how's your life?
Karen: Oh, great. How's yours?
Sam Weber: Not so great.
Karen: Ohhh, we're telling the truth

Wasn't it ever thus?

You can use any social occasion or medium to make yourself feel good or bad, share honestly or put on a happy face. And like the example above, if you want honest connection, someone has to have the courage to go first with telling the parts that are "not so great".

If I wanted to I could get myself really down about all the people on Mefi who are doing stuff with their lives that I'd wanted to do and never did.
posted by philipy at 9:11 AM on January 29, 2011 [13 favorites]


I think people, much like birds or monkeys, have an intrinsic need to know what others are doing. This is why gossip is popular. Facebook just takes it to an insane degree because the boundaries are not as well defined in real life despite being able to filter for groups. For example, if you belong to a few social groups, it's not very natural for them to mingle with one another and suddenly boundaries don't mean anything.

And women—an especially unhappy bunch of late—may be especially vulnerable to keeping up with what they imagine is the happiness of the Joneses.

Unfortunately I have seen this happen with an old high school friend whose life has not gone very well over the years. I tend to be a pretty cheerful poster, because I am naturally cheerful and Facebook created an accidental rosy picture of my life. She already has extremely poor self-esteem and the way she began to think that I had a "perfect life" started to bother me. I can't describe how uncomfortable it became when every comment from her was "I wish I could do this" or "I'm envious" etc. It really caused me to pull away from Facebook. This is the sort of vulnerable person I think the sentence refers to.
posted by Calzephyr at 9:27 AM on January 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I must be doing Facebook wrong. I use it (mainly the status updates) to bitch, snark, sneer and kvetch. In a humorously non-threatening way that is. Mostly.
posted by Go Banana at 9:28 AM on January 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


A lot of phone conversations make people sad, which is why I've never had a phone, and the billions of people with phones are deluded loser joiners. I am so cool and contrarian.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:28 AM on January 29, 2011 [27 favorites]


I don't know, I'm pretty happy since I left Facebook, so maybe they're right. Then again, I was much like Go Banana, in that all I did was "bitch, snark, sneer and kvetch."
posted by nevercalm at 9:33 AM on January 29, 2011


Wow that was a ton of commas.
posted by nevercalm at 9:34 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, the Slate story was reinforcing my decision to stay off Facebook, but Elsa's list cemented it.
posted by sageleaf at 9:35 AM on January 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


...I heard Kvatch was on fire or something.
posted by clavdivs at 9:35 AM on January 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


O'Rourke and two University of Pennsylvania economists who have studied the male-female happiness gap argue that women's collective discontent may be due to too much choice and second-guessing–unforeseen fallout, they speculate, of the way our roles have evolved over the last half-century. As the economists put it, "The increased opportunity to succeed in many dimensions may have led to an increased likelihood in believing that one's life is not measuring up."

This reeks of odd. Women have too many choices, so we're unhappy now? See, they never should've let us out of the kitchen, apparently!

Definitely doesn't seem scientific, so what gives? Especially if these things are self-reported without any sort of control.

(That piece stating such is from 2009, by the way, when the economy was still fairly deeply in the dumps and there was a national sense of fear and uncertainty, by the way, so maybe not the best 'data' to use two years later).
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:45 AM on January 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


An interesting hypothesis, of course, and an intuitively plausible mechanism but the hard part - and therefore the real work - of social science is mapping the interaction effects. How does this really work out in messy real life?

There are for example lots of other directly opposing and equally plausible mechanisms. For example showing us the best of other people's lives can give us higher aspiration levels to aim for and examples to model ourselves on. As in, "I can have a wedding like that too."

NB Such an effect has been systematically explored with respect to Latin American telenovelas which are popular around the world and seem to be positively associated with women's feeling of and actual empowerment. (Source: IDB)
posted by Philosopher's Beard at 9:50 AM on January 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mixing uppers (MetaFilter) and downers (Facebook) is never a good idea. It puts a real strain on your heart and can kill you much, much easier than if you just took a downer/upper by themselves.

To combo these two you must know your boundaries and tolerances incredibly, even then you should know it's a stupid idea.
posted by mazola at 9:52 AM on January 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


What about those of us who feel better about our lives after seeing the poor decisions our peers have made thanks to their posts on FaceBook?

Oh, that's just me and I'm a sick person? Thought as much.

Also, the article ignores the people who use FaceBook as their own personal megaphone for whining. (I'm not talking about ME here.) I have a number of "friends" that I've had to "hide" due the fact that I just can't take one more update about their personal misery. I have very, very few friends who are consistently upbeat, but perhaps everyone I know is just Doing it Rong.

Also, the bit about "women" being an "especially unhappy bunch?" Kinda made me want to kick the writer of the article in his/her home entertainment system. Reinforcing stupid stereotypes much? "Oh the womens, they're always so saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad."
posted by sonika at 9:56 AM on January 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Social networks are only as good (or bad) as those you include in your social circles. Are your friends concerned about appearances or keeping up with some unattainable standard of eternal joy? Or are they sharing their lives with friends and family who are not in the same physical area? And how do you feel about your friends? Do you feel happiness for their success, or do you resent that they are doing better than you?

I value FaceBook for keeping me up-to-date on friends. I can log in every few weeks, read through the updates from people, maybe wish people a happy birthday on their wall or call them and chat, read that they got their first short story published in a magazine, or saw an awesome concert. People can share without thrusting the news into their friends faces - it's there to read and comment upon, or ignore, as you see fit.

Amongst my friends, the days of "status updates" being updated every hour ended when we left college, because we could check someone's status and know where to find them to go and hang out, or that we shouldn't bother calling them for a few hours.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:08 AM on January 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


This reeks of odd. Women have too many choices, so we're unhappy now?

Some research suggests increased number of choices can lead to greater unhappiness and that in our culture this hits women harder than men because women are presented with so many more conflicting expectations. On the other hand here's a pretty good overview of skepticism about surveys that claim that "women are getting unhappier."

Maybe my friends are more open or honest than the Facebook users described here --- or maybe we just have worse filtering impulses...But FB doesn't present me with the shiny-happy stream of fake joy that is described here.

I agree that there are definitely better and worse degrees of this.

But if your friends do any filtering at all of the worst parts of their lives, then, on average, their lives are still going to appear better than yours, which is of course unfiltered to you, so the net effect can still be depressing, even if you consciously keep in mind that everyone has more crap in their lives than they tell you about.
posted by straight at 10:12 AM on January 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Since when is the point of life, the gratification of comparative success?

I understand the urge to hide from the reminder of one's comparative failure, but one is then only hiding from the urgency of life. Seeing other people's success only inflames ambition, and with desire comes effort, and then success, which is the proof of greatness.

Van Gogh declared “I feel—a failure” and went on to paint magnificently.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:13 AM on January 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Facebook becomes more tolerable when you friend people who are actually your friends.
posted by mazola at 10:15 AM on January 29, 2011 [30 favorites]


Again, we have an example of confirmation bias, and Slate is paying this person to promote hers? (Sketchy "research" cited not withstanding.)

Also, what Ironmouth wrote....
posted by Lynsey at 10:16 AM on January 29, 2011


sonika- stereotypes or no, there is a gap in the incidence of depression between the sexes, starting in adolescence. There are scientists trying to find out why this is. I don't know what their theories are for adults, but for adolescents, the strongest explanation for the gap is that there is a statistical difference between the degree to which body image contributes to self-esteem in adolescent boys versus girls.

"Home entertainment system" is now my favorite euphemism
posted by Jpfed at 10:19 AM on January 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


With mazola on this one. If another person's happiness or success isn't occasion for you to feel happy for them, you're not actually their friend. Either un-friend them or remove them from your feed and move on …would be excellent advice that I have no intention of acting on myself.
posted by wreckingball at 10:19 AM on January 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


it's there to read and comment upon, or ignore, as you see fit.

I wish more people would take this to heart instead of getting so irate about it all.
posted by modernnomad at 10:20 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Trying to understand this discussion.

Someone says "kids in poor neighborhoods are less likely to be successful academically." Someone else points to a counterexample and says "your entire theory is flawed."

Someone says "seeing loads of other people on Facebook portraying themselves as exclusively happy ends up making people sadder." Someone else point to a counterexample saying "well, I use Facebook and *I'm* happy, so your entire theory is flawed."

Tell me again why we flame the first case and upvote the second?
posted by bpm140 at 10:25 AM on January 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


"Home entertainment system" is now my favorite euphemism

Mine too, and I can't possibly take credit. It's from Johnny Weir.

posted by sonika at 10:33 AM on January 29, 2011


But isn't any online community the same to some extent? I can't help but wonder if anyone sees my username here and only wishes they could be so winsome.

Sigh, I only wish I could be so Parker. All I have here is a Bic.
posted by ersatz at 10:33 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have "friends" in two generations on fb: mine and my teenage kids'. In general I have observed that most people my age use fb either as a political/advoocacy platform or as a perpetual Christmas letter where everyone is wonderful and witty and happy and healthy; they post updates weekly or so on average. They are as likely to send me a private message as they are to post something on my wall.

My kids' friends tend to use more negative posts, much more often. They'll post about breakups, they'll post passive-aggressive snark directed at unnamed frenemies, they'll post about their parents sucking or their school/band/etc. failures or just "FML." And they'll post 5 or more updates every day. They use the IM feature constantly & hardly use the private messaging feature at all. (They also don't use email except for school.)

Both are attention-seeking styles but I find it interesting that kids not only don't have any problem posting the negative stuff, they tend to prefer it (sympathy-seeking maybe?).
posted by headnsouth at 10:35 AM on January 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't overestimate the happiness of others. If anything, the Web has transformed the majority of humanity from living lives of quiet desperation to lives of perpetual public ejaculations of immense dissatisfaction.

Of course, it's my own fault for searching the web for public ejaculations.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:40 AM on January 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


My youngest sister recently emailed me with a lament about how joining Facebook has made her so miserable and depressed, but it seems like we've been doing this to ourselves for awhile now (i.e. college alumni magazines, "how can that jerk now be a lawyer!?"). Now it's just more accessible for us to make ourselves depressed.

Here's what I told her; if it makes you depressed, don't do it.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 10:42 AM on January 29, 2011


The thing that's most annoying to me on Facebook right now is that they won't extend the option to force a secure connection to my account. That makes me way more anxious about using Facebook than reading the self-promoters on my list.

I try to be generally positive on Facebook because I don't want to be Negative Person. You know Negative Person: the one who always has something to say to drag you down, the one who's always depressed, the one who'll tell you the dark cloud for every silver lining. Having said that, Facebook isn't my brag sheet either. But I'm conservative about who I add on Facebook and getting moreso over time, which may make a difference. I can afford to occasionally be less than perfect with Facebook because it's mostly full of friends and not a PR device.
posted by immlass at 10:49 AM on January 29, 2011


‎FTA: "happiness is impersonal, pain is not"

???

This is alien to me, my pain is generic, it is the same kind of pain other people feel, fairly boring. My happinesses on the other hand are often pretty peculiar.
posted by idiopath at 10:50 AM on January 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe it's because the past year or so has been really tough for a variety of professional and personal reasons, but I have to confess, embarrassing as it is to admit since I should know better (understanding that any particular person's Facebook profile is probably not an accurate gauge of their overall life experience), that my Facebook experience tends to resemble this article.

Whenever I see Facebook updates/profiles that indicate my friends have a better job than me, make significantly more money than me, travel more frequently than me, have a happier marriage than me, are better educated than me, have a more active social life than me, it inevitably puts me into a "What have I done with my life???" depression.

And don't even get me started on how I reacted when I saw that a long-term ex-girlfriend of mine is now married to a guy who looks like he could be a male model.
posted by The Gooch at 10:54 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bah. There's far too much being written about facebook and such, pro and con.

It's a fun little diversion. I actually got my most recent (and best paying ever) job through facebook, from an acquaintance who was a friend of a friend. Never would have hooked up with this person otherwise.

People are just plain making too much of it both ways. It's a widget, a diversion, a toy and a way of keeping in touch with people casually. I find people with strong anti-social networking stances much like people who need to constantly mention that they don't own a TV.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 11:00 AM on January 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


This reeks of odd. Women have too many choices, so we're unhappy now? See, they never should've let us out of the kitchen, apparently!

I think men also face this problem, and it's not because we have too much choice, it's because we're constantly told to avoid choosing. Keep your options open, don't choose too soon, because something better might come along. Choosing one thing means you can't choose something else, so make sure it's easy to change your mind if you do have to make a choice.

We're told that autonomy means having choices, not making choices. It's almost like they're decorative plates, you put them on display but you're not supposed to actually use them. So then you go on facebook and look at everyone else's life, and it looks like they have everything you don't have: a choice that's so amazing, they were able to commit to them with no regrets about losing any of their other choices.
posted by AlsoMike at 11:37 AM on January 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


Facebook only becomes a problem if you take it seriously or if you use it for the wrong reasons.

For all of you complaining about social networking sites, keep in mind that metafilter is, in its own way, a social networking site which, like facebook, can be interpreted as having a number of negative influences: creating an "illusory" sense of having lots of friends/being part of an "imaginary" community, a place for slacktivism, an outlet for inane or self-aggrandizing comments, etc. If you have great friends, then facebook is very much like a more compact version of metafilter, only with people you know. At least that is how it is for me. of course, different people use facebook in very different ways and for very different reasons, which explains I think the polarizing opinions about facebook here.

But if someone's status updates/attention-seeking photo albums/annoying posts get on your nerves, then seriously, why are you facebook friends with them in the first place? I second mazola's point: facebook is only as good as the friends you have on the site.
posted by adso at 11:42 AM on January 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


Last summer I wrote about how Facebook not-so-close-friends are bad for us in the same way as TV stars of yesteryear.

Since TV was invented, critics have pointed out the dangers of watching the perfect people who seem to inhabit the screen. They are almost universally beautiful, live in interesting places, do interesting work (if they work at all), are unfailingly witty, and never have to do any cleaning. They never even need to use the toilet. It cannot be psychologically healthy to compare yourself to these phantasms. So it’s interesting that social networks have inadvertently created the same effect, but using an even more powerful source. Instead of actors in Hollywood, the characters are people that you know to be real and have actually met. The editing is done not by film school graduates, but by the people themselves.

(This led to an article in The Guardian by Oliver Burkeman.)
posted by wanderingstan at 11:46 AM on January 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have a sort of different problem. It's not that I'm disparaging over my friend's success, but the success of those in my field who are younger than I and more talented. It's typically through other sites, but the result is similar: "I'm that age/older and i'm not producing this kind of work, I feel like giving up on it"
posted by hellojed at 11:48 AM on January 29, 2011


I've always thought that the über-positive facebook status update habit is mainly an American thing. It makes me laugh sometimes because it's so obviously fake ("I love my hubby sooo much!!!" - blergh!). Other nationalities in my feed, most of them German, seem to be much more balanced.
tl;dr: Befriend some Europeans on Facebook, their miserable feeds full of complaints and grievances will make you feel better!
posted by The Toad at 12:05 PM on January 29, 2011


Perhaps what I hate about Facebook is how everyone talks about it all the time. I wish it had more Fight Club type rules. Then David Fincher could make a movie about the guy who started it* and...oh, wait.

Speaking of fight club, don't tell Zuck but I have two FB accounts. One for me that is all boring with my real life boring friends. The other is more like a Mexican Charlie Sheen.

I created Charlie as a way to experiment with FB's evolving privacy safeguards and to see how pervasive FB/FB Connect and Liking things are... about 90% of pages I visit have a thumbs up "me gusta" button while the other 10% are the "like". Can't tell why, even when not logged in in either account, some will be in Spanish and others in English), to practice super casual Mexican spanish (why he's Mexican), and to friend and like notorious people and things that the real me would not like the world to know about (and I ended up "liking" things with it that were more mainstream and using FB connect on it rather than the real me). So one night I set up this account and went a friending spree of porn chicks, celebrities. I went and liked LA/SD/TJ strip clubs (that I've never been to...no, really!) and things like Fleshlights, Snuggies, and every beer and liquor I could think of. Then I let the FB friend recommendation engine go to work and sent friend requests to 20 people it recommended at random (most of the first were geographical...he's from Playas de Tijauana, of course "Dos Hombres y Medio" without the other hombre and the kid, though). But then I started getting friend requests from people who seem to do the same thing was doing or wanted to be friends with me because I was friends with someone they knew (I had a rule to never turn down a friend request which is the opposite of my real life account -- I have to know the person, or at least our common friend to accetpt. That we live in the same city of 3mlilion doesn't count as a real connection).

I found the celebrities and porn people I'm "friends" with to be boring (porn stars seem to spend a lot of time in airports and complain about the delays and shit). But the random Mexican young people I started following helped me with my desire to learn what super casual Spanish SMS speak (it is fascinating that instead of using or ignoring accents, many will repeat the vowel for emphasis and will remove letters that a silent like in "hay" but than you have to wonder if they mean "hay" or "ay" when they typed "ay". using @ to de-genderize nouns in interesting: chic@s is for chicas y chicos and clarifies a group. Kids that know English are even more dangerous and will say things like "k wuaaapa chula") . But by my alter-ego's belonging to environmental and Mexican, politcial and civic groups, I got friends that are older and post about political and environmental stuff. It is really interesting to read just regular random people's comments about US and World events. Somehow I managed to not get anyone crazy in this class of friends and their comments are insightful.

But, no, Slate, Facebook isn't making me sad. Today a person I don't know but loves animals is volunteering at the Tijuana animal shelter. Another person I don't know in Toluca is mad the boy she doesn't like won't call her. A person I do know got laid off last week. My crazy Teabagger uncle said Obama's SOTU was packed with lies and stuff I stopped reading. But more than that, I hadn't even opened FB in a month because the my real friends I communicate with daily are on IM, SMS and email. Some of them are on FB, too. But it is the same content. The other people I really don't know well (HS friends I haven't thought about since high school) or relatives with crazy religious and political views I can do without. I got my crazy teabagger uncle's Christmas update before facebook and that was enough.

* I was really hoping The Social Network was going to have the same ending as Fight Club
posted by birdherder at 12:55 PM on January 29, 2011 [14 favorites]


I have a few "friends" that I keep thinking I ought to hide, because all they ever post about is how miserable they feel. It's one cold, migraine, upset stomach, etc after another. But I never get around to actually getting rid of them. Maybe I keep them around to offset all the successful, happy, healthy folks.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:05 PM on January 29, 2011


Wait til you and your friends hit 70. All anyone wants to talk about is their ailments.
Oh. And their grandkids wonderfulness.
posted by notreally at 1:06 PM on January 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


After reading this, I realized that I had never even thought to take people's professions of happiness at face value.

I have been dismissing as shallow and uninteresting all of the people who are perpetually posting stuff about how happy and successful they are.

It never even occurred to me to believe them.
posted by jayder at 1:28 PM on January 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've made two Facebook posts this week. One was to tell everyone I had a 103 degree fever so no, I was not going to do anything special for my birthday on Monday. The second post was to let everyone know that I was laid off on Thursday along with my boss and a quarter of my entire company. I've been doing my part to bring down the average of happy posts on Facebook. You're welcome.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:37 PM on January 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


If Metafilter was facebook, then no one would see this comment, like it, or reply to it. Therefore they are the same thing.
posted by Elmore at 1:51 PM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love it when my friends are happy. Reading a cheerful post on Facebook has made me feel better a number of times. I realize that college students are a handy bunch to study - a captive group to experiment on and all that - but I don't think that it's a wide enough sample on which to base a conclusion, and it's definitely skewed for age. When I was in my late teens/early twenties I may have felt similarly - in fact, I'm sure I did, but that has nothing to do with Facebook and everything to do with not knowing yourself and not having really strong friendships. So, yeah, college students are prone to thinking that everyone is doing better than they are, but that has nothing to do with Facebook, and it has very little to do with how the rest of the world views their friend's happiness.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:52 PM on January 29, 2011


Van Gogh declared “I feel—a failure” and went on to paint magnificently.

And then he violently killed himself, dying from his self-inflicted gunshot wound two days after firing the shot, as a pauper who's works were mostly unknown. His last words were, "the sadness will last forever."
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:56 PM on January 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


I don't think anything on facebook has made me sad yet? Sometimes jealous, angry, or even happy, but idk. For me, I would've expected it to amplify my depression and anxieties, but that's not generally been the case. For example: Having 60 people say happy birthday is pretty cool, and even while I thought to myself 'they're only doing this because Facebook makes it so easy' I couldn't help but be happy as a result. (although perhaps that was the drugs helping!)
(angry is mainly from all the people from my hometown's narrow-minded statuses :|)
posted by rubah at 2:06 PM on January 29, 2011


I wrote about this for TIME this week, in the context of the decline of empathy.

What's strange is how people — and I certainly include myself here— consistently forget that other people are buffing their images while knowing that they do it themselves.

12-step programs have a good slogan on this, which I also note: don't compare your inside to someone else's outside. I think that captures the problem very well, because it encapsulates how we know everything about ourselves but not so much about others' internal lives.
posted by Maias at 2:17 PM on January 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


What I like to post on the 'Book are links to cool or otherwise notable things I find on the web -- and where do you think I find most of them? Sometimes it's like the 'Book is my way of creating a metaMetaFilterfilter, to share the stuff from here I like the best with my friends who don't visit the Blue as often or at all.

This type of post seems to make up a large percentage of my feed, as well. My feed also gets a lot of notices from organizations I've linked to because I want to see these notices -- Amnesty International, Americans for the Separation of Church and State, gay rights groups, Doctors Without Borders, NASA, MAPS, local bands and theater groups and radio stations and businesses, et cetera. There's also posts in my feed from various personalities of interest, eg Neil Gaiman and Joe Frank. In that way its function is not unlike Twitter or an RSS reader.

That said, although I'm not a big poster of the quotidian details of my life I find that I actually enjoy reading those kinds of updates from my friends and friendly acquaintances. It seems to me to hit a certain level of social interaction that used to be very common but is less and less so, due mainly to sprawl development. That's the level where you see your neighbors out on the street, exchange a hello and a casual, short conversation about trivial minutia, and get that little burst of oxytocin or whatever that assures you that you're part of something without really demanding much of you in return. You can sustain a lot more relationships at that level than at the level of real friendship, just like you can have a lot more neighbors than intimates, and I think it's a level of socializing that we as a species have mostly had available to us, and have been missing lately. The 'Book fills that niche, scratches that itch.

But it's not for everybody. Some people demand more meaningfulness from every relationship they have, and I can respect that, though it would exhaust me. Me, I like the casual interaction as well as the deep connection, and manage to find room for both in my life (AND on the 'Book) somehow.
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 2:22 PM on January 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


I try to be generally positive on Facebook because I don't want to be Negative Person.

The stigmatization of anyone who's doesn't present a perpetually upbeat face to the world as a socially undesirable Debbie Downer is probably what's making us depressed. In recent years, it's become acceptable to label anyone who's openly experiencing bad times as a "negative person" without any shame at one's lack of empathy. Facebook is just another platform on which we're expected to keep our less than sunny thoughts and experiences to ourselves.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 2:35 PM on January 29, 2011 [13 favorites]


I try to be generally positive on Facebook because I don't want to be Negative Person.

The stigmatization of anyone who's doesn't present a perpetually upbeat face to the world as a socially undesirable Debbie Downer is probably what's making us depressed. In recent years, it's become acceptable to label anyone who's openly experiencing bad times as a "negative person" without any shame at one's lack of empathy.


This reminds me of Barbara Ehrenreich's book Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America.

[The UK title of the book is even more grim: Smile or Die: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.]
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:10 PM on January 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


If another person's happiness or success isn't occasion for you to feel happy for them, you're not actually their friend.

I'd agree that rejoicing with those who rejoice is a mentally healthy thing to do.

But if you're struggling with feelings about how happy you are with your own life, I think it's probably more important to examine the accuracy of your self-assessment and whether you're making unrealistic comparisons with other people than it is to try to convince yourself that other people's successes are sufficient fuel for your own happiness.

But if someone's status updates/attention-seeking photo albums/annoying posts get on your nerves, then seriously, why are you facebook friends with them in the first place? I second mazola's point: facebook is only as good as the friends you have on the site.

I really don't think "Pollyanna Christmas Card Facebook Updates Annoy Me" is the real issue here. The real problem is, as Maias put it, the human tendency to "compare your inside with someone else's outside" and whether Facebook exacerbates that tendency because it's so much easier to spin even the negative things about your life when posting to the internet instead of interacting with people face-to-face.

Also, whether the sheer number of casual "friends" posting updates about their lives creates a more insidious form of unrealistic standards about what is "normal" or "healthy" or "successful" than we'd get from the more obviously fictional stories and characters on TV.
posted by straight at 3:11 PM on January 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, the Facebooks of clinically depressed people with little shame are really really hard to take.
posted by keratacon at 3:24 PM on January 29, 2011


The stigmatization of anyone who's doesn't present a perpetually upbeat face to the world as a socially undesirable Debbie Downer is probably what's making us depressed. In recent years, it's become acceptable to label anyone who's openly experiencing bad times as a "negative person" without any shame at one's lack of empathy. Facebook is just another platform on which we're expected to keep our less than sunny thoughts and experiences to ourselves.

The person who's showing lack of empathy is the dullard doing the public complaining.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 3:35 PM on January 29, 2011


The stigmatization of anyone who's doesn't present a perpetually upbeat face to the world as a socially undesirable Debbie Downer is probably what's making us depressed. In recent years, it's become acceptable to label anyone who's openly experiencing bad times as a "negative person" without any shame at one's lack of empathy.

Actually, in my case, NP is a real person with whom I was on an internet forum (not MeFi) for a number of years. As far as I could tell, NP's problem was not that NP was depressed, but that NP was perpetually critical not just of self, as is typical of depressed people I know, but of also of others: friends, e-quaintances, coworkers, political figures, etc. In the several years I was acquainted with NP, I have trouble remembering anything NP said in praise or positivity about anything or anyone. My problem with NP was not NP's depression, if NP was in fact depressed; it was that NP issued a constant and toxic stream of criticism and complaint about everything NP dealt with, including, frequently, me and others around (or e-round) NP. When NP left my immediate internet circle, I remember feeling like a load was lifted off my shoulders. NP's email and posts were significantly more detrimental to my mental health than anyone I've ever dealt with on Facebook, including some seriously depressed people in some of my circles.

If not wanting to deal with NP and those like NP marks me as insufficiently empathetic, I guess I am. But I'd rather deal with a dozen depressed real friends, who might get through depression, and who, in spite of their own troubles, occasionally take the time to be genuinely kind, than a single NP ever again.
posted by immlass at 3:36 PM on January 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


"He noticed that they seemed to feel particularly crummy about themselves after logging onto the site and scrolling through others' attractive photos, accomplished bios, and chipper status updates."

Well, I'm doing my part to counteract this because almost all my photos are awkward and a lot of my status updates are about my bowel movements.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:20 PM on January 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Crap! I've been using facebook all wrong!!! Someone should have told me. : (

Mostly I complain about stuff. And make jokes about it. And I don't _think_ I try to one-up my friends about how happy and successful I am. Of course I only have about 120 fb friends and I am seriously considering un-friending all the ones I've actually every met since they never post about anything. Not even hangnails or Nobel Prizes. It appears that for sinister reasons of their own they friended me and promptly set their profiles so I can't read their posts. Hmm...

My real fb friends spend all their time whining: "I still need 3 pieces of corrugated tin to make a groundhog trap in Frontierville!!" "Zynga didn't record it when I got twelve pieces of chocolate and now I have to do the quest all over again!!" "Please, please, anyone who can help me. I just need ONE green gem!!" At least the ones who speak English do, but they are a bare majority. The rest of them post stuff in German and Indonesian that I think means, "I still need 3 pieces of corrugated tin to make a groundhog trap in Frontierville!!"

So it never occurred to me that all the people on fb are happier than I am. Although they DID seem rather pleased when I managed to get them those barber smocks and the Pinto foal, and joined their Pirate Crew. Well, if they are happier than I am they must be flipping delirious. I spent half my time on facebook roaring with laughter - and that's when the games _don't_ work!

Is it possible that insecure adolescents of whatever age who are desperately trying to look cool are making themselves unhappy on facebook? Probably. But don't the poor kids make themselves unhappy everywhere??
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:43 PM on January 29, 2011



It's to do with your personality. Extroverts take a shine to presenting themselves as shiny happy people, on Facebook or in person.

I come from a family of introverts and perfectionists (a dinner party must be planned like a military campaign, and for that reason happens only every six months or so). Watching my parents compose the annual family Christmas letter, usually on Dec. 23, and if unlucky on Dec. 26, is an ordeal. But it makes me feel better about not being active on Facebook. It's probably hereditary.

I also don't know how many Mefites would never post anything at all if they had to post and comment under their own names and were expected to display pictures of themselves (I know some of you do use your names).
posted by bad grammar at 4:44 PM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I also don't know how many Mefites would never post anything at all if they had to post and comment under their own names and were expected to display pictures of themselves (I know some of you do use your names)."

The AskMe questions would certainly be less interesting....
posted by Jacqueline at 4:56 PM on January 29, 2011


The person who posts the most crap in my feed about how awesome her life is and how her kids' shit don't stink and how everything is a blessing and Jesus loves her and she's the luckiest woman in the world because her husband rocks and all that stuff is 95 days sober and counting.

It's not her life. It's her affirmations that she has good things in her life that she doesn't want to lose to alcohol addiction. She says it because SHE needs to hear it, and she needs a community that agrees, "Verily, these things are awesome and worth fighting for."

I pretty much assume whenever someone is relentlessly positive in presenting every. little. detail. of their super-awesome lives, that it's not their life, it's an affirmation they're putting out there to cope with something MEGASUCKY.

(Not that I mind positivity on Facebook. I mostly use it because I like to see my friends' adorable kids' pictures and congratulate them on their teenagers making state honors orchestra and stuff. I mean, for a lot of people, it's just a year-round Christmas letter where they only hit the highlights. That's cool. I like to be happy for people. It's the people who post CONSTANTLY about EVERYTHING being super-awesome that I am suspicious of.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:58 PM on January 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


This reminds me of Barbara Ehrenreich's book Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America.

hurdy gurdy girl, I do want to read that, but I understand that she focuses a lot on cultural phenomena like The Secret and the power of positive thinking. I hear the anti-"negativity" sentiment from smart people, people who would laugh at The Secret but still take it as a given that "negative people" should be shunned. Negative thinking is fine as far as they're concerned, as long as you keep it to yourself.

As far as I could tell, NP's problem was not that NP was depressed, but that NP was perpetually critical not just of self, as is typical of depressed people I know, but of also of others: friends, e-quaintances, coworkers, political figures, etc.

Sometimes people who are rude or obnoxious in addition to having a less than positive outlook are labeled "negative", and in the current discourse it becomes all about "how to deal with negative people", when if a rude or obnoxious acquaintance were alienating others with political or religious rants, it wouldn't be about "how to deal with Democrats" or "how to deal with Methodists."
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:23 PM on January 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I do find that Facebook makes me miserable if I use it for more than 30 seconds a day, in the same way that too much TV makes me miserable. Most areas of the internet don't, and TV on the internet doesn't so much. I think it has to do with agency -- I have control over what I read, see and hear on most areas of the internet, whereas on Facebook and network/cable TV my agency is limited, with the "news feed" becoming gradually more obtuse and impenetrable. It's clearly a feature of Facebook, not a bug, that it's so awful to navigate. It seems designed to put you into a sort of dazed distraction.
posted by speicus at 5:26 PM on January 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mixing uppers (MetaFilter)

Whoa, what metafilter are YOU at?

Kidding, only kidding.

(I think.)
posted by The ____ of Justice at 6:10 PM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


This article is really about someone who wants to whine about life and has found a scapegoat
posted by aesacus at 6:22 PM on January 29, 2011


Reading this thread, several of you mentioned leaving Facebook. Where did you go?
posted by starscream at 6:40 PM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sometimes people who are rude or obnoxious in addition to having a less than positive outlook are labeled "negative", and in the current discourse it becomes all about "how to deal with negative people"

That is because the common tie is their soul-suckingly miserable behavior. And, of course, the frequent insistence that it is the job of their e-quaintances to put up with the behavior to solve those problems instead of referring them to Miss Manners and/or sending them to mental health professionals, who are generally better equipped to deal with severe depression than random people on Facebook. YMMV.
posted by immlass at 7:02 PM on January 29, 2011


I usually post jokes, complaints, funny looking pictures of myself, or ridiculous anecdotes in which I do something stupid. And sometimes pictures of my bike and garden, and youtube clips of Dolly Parton. I'm sure I'm making at least one demographic jealous: people with much less free time.

As for feeling jealous, I only read updates of real friends or very interesting acquaintances. That solves it for me.
posted by yarly at 7:04 PM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reading this thread, several of you mentioned leaving Facebook. Where did you go?

If you're serious, I'm spending much more time offline, in Reality Camp. There's this book I've been meaning to write for........more time than I care to think about.
posted by nevercalm at 7:50 PM on January 29, 2011


Yeah, count me in the bunch of people who aren't seeing this fake happiness on FaceBook. I can only think of one FB friend that's regularly posting emo updates, and maybe a couple that seem relentlessly happy, but honestly most of my friends updates make me appreciate my own life more. It's commonplace for people on my friends list to post complaints about their jobs and relationships, or horrible stuff they're going through.
posted by Nattie at 8:01 PM on January 29, 2011


Actually... I agree with this person's post. And, I've fallen victim to it myself. Between seeing everyone happily paired up, gleefully and gainfully employed, and with a brood of children (everyone on my friend list has children that look EXACTLY the same, and even though I don't like or want kids, they all manage to be painfully cute) or seeing that everyone is constantly having the time of their lives, I admit that being on Facebook makes me more miserable. And, I'm a pretty damn miserable person without social networking. However, it's easy to alleviate the problem: stop logging in to the site (you won't miss anything!) or fixate on only a handful of people you actually care about. Block everything and everyone else. And, to those who never caved in to the lure of Facebook: you made the right choice!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:32 PM on January 29, 2011


I must be doing Facebook wrong. I use it (mainly the status updates) to bitch, snark, sneer and kvetch. In a humorously non-threatening way that is. Mostly.

That bitching on Facebook (and MetaFilter) bugs me much, much more than any sort of saccharine. It's the worst parts of 8th grade.

I find people with strong anti-social networking stances much like people who need to constantly mention that they don't own a TV.

Anecdotally, the people I know who actively disparage Facebook watch an assload of TV.

I do find that Facebook makes me miserable if I use it for more than 30 seconds a day, in the same way that too much TV makes me miserable. Most areas of the internet don't, and TV on the internet doesn't so much. I think it has to do with agency -- I have control over what I read, see and hear on most areas of the internet, whereas on Facebook and network/cable TV my agency is limited.

Very insightful. I find myself affected the same way by the FB front page. There is something "TV" about it.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:14 PM on January 29, 2011


I don't know--I find both uber positive and uber negative people on FB (and in real life) incredibly frustrating. I like the ones who seem to be just trying to be honest. But then, I mostly try to use FB as more of a long-distance relationship management tool than a self-marketing platform. Since half my family lives in Germany, it's easier to keep in touch with them on FB. In fact, the idea of viewing human relationships as social marketing campaigns is more profoundly depressing to me than any kind of FB update, positive or negative, because honestly, the world seems to be practically choking to death on marketing these days.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:26 PM on January 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I used to question my life choices after seeing how amazing my friends' lives are on Facebook. Then I got a smartphone and started updating every time I did something amazing or amusing, and found out I could also have a great looking Facebook life. Finally I realized I had fucked up my phones setup an none of my updates made it to the site.

My Facebook feed would make all of you want to just give up on life, lucky for you it is set to very private, only existing in my brain.
posted by Dr. Curare at 10:31 PM on January 29, 2011


I use Facebook as a platform for sarcasm.
posted by jeremy b at 11:34 PM on January 29, 2011


When I need to psyche myself up about the awesomeness of life and the universe and everything I go for the hard stuff:

Super Bowl XVI Up with People Halftime Show

(If you do not know how awesome this is, I will just tell you it is from the day when Joe Montana first achieved godhood and his shit became odorless.)
posted by bukvich at 5:37 AM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tell me again why we flame the first case and upvote the second?

Because the first case ("kids in poor neighborhoods are less likely to be successful academically") has been studied repeatedly and shown statistically and through experience to be a well-supported model of how things work (or, more to the point, don't work), while the second case ("seeing loads of other people on Facebook portraying themselves as exclusively happy ends up making people sadder") is not at all well-established or documented.

The Slate author is extrapolating a half-baked idea from a single study not specific to Facebook, relying on self-reported data from a narrow group of same-age subjects. The Slate article isn't basing his thesis on solid ground. Our own experiences are at least as valid as his.
posted by Elsa at 6:32 AM on January 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have just recently discovered this metafilter and I have realized that I was trying to make facebook into metafilter. I find all these cool links to sciency stuff and I feel like the world should know! Inflammation in the brain may be linked to depression, bipolar and other mental illness- fascinating- status update. Inflammation in the liver may be related to inflammation in other parts of the body and can be caused by hormones that block inflammatory chemicals or that directly cause inflammation. Cholesterol can directly cause inflammation in the liver. Status update, status update. The new york times claims a new turkish movie involving Israeli policy is anti-semetic but they have posted the same claims about Israeli policy without being branded anti-semetic. Status update.

I kept hoping these status updates would generate interesting discussions, disputing the research or linking it up with other known knowledge or whatever. But usually my links get a few likes and people IRL tell me "thanks I like the links you post."

I assume that most people on facebook are like "whatever stupid sciency links, I just want to talk about how my bf is annoying me" or whatever but I assume that adults are capable of using the block feature if my links are causing headaches.

I kept thinking, we have access to all these people on facebook, think of the possibilty for expanding ideas, generating discussions and trying to solve the worlds problems?!!

But there's always just using metafilter rather than trying to turn facebook into something it's not. (I don't know if I can give up posting my links though, I still feel like people should know what's going on science and the world!)
posted by xarnop at 8:38 AM on January 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I kept hoping these status updates would generate interesting discussions, disputing the research or linking it up with other known knowledge or whatever. But usually my links get a few likes and people IRL tell me "thanks I like the links you post."

That was my experience too.

And it was a huge factor in my decision to leave. Facebook is lame. People don't respond. They don't actually talk to each other. I am familiar with the argument that that is a feature, not a bug, that you're supposed to throw whatever you have out there and people are free to respond to it or ignore it at their leisure but that whole culture of non-responsiveness was driving me crazy. Here I offer a guilty plea to being needier than the average bear, to having a touch of narcissism in my emotional makeup, but in the end, no matter where the fault may have been, it just wasn't a good match. So I left.
posted by jason's_planet at 8:54 AM on January 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, while I was submitting links and updates and photos that I thought were pretty interesting, and getting no response, people with more popularity were getting shitloads of responses to contributions that were quite banal and not all that interesting. After a while, that pattern really started to piss me off.

Yes, this is petty. I'm only human.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:07 AM on January 30, 2011


Maybe it's because so many of my FB friends are web-savvy in general (which seems not to be generally true about FB users), so they easily view FB updates as conversational, open, easy extensions of their daily interactions. Maybe my friends and I are just mopey sadfaces. But FB doesn't present me with the shiny-happy stream of fake joy that is described here.

Yeah, this is my experience too. It's a largely a comfortable mishmosh of happy and sad and funny that reflects the personalities of my friends pretty well. Sure, my [subject]-obsessed friends post about [subject] a lot, and my perpetually-needs-a-favor friend throws out requests for favors -- but I accepted that about these people already. In addition to the usual snark and goofiness and link-sharing and family updates and mundane stuff and photo-sharing, I get a lot of practical info:

* Coordination and group-gathering for local events, and better breaking local news than any local media sources (especially at the neighborhood level.)
* A whole lot of recipe-swapping, especially in the vein of WTF else can I make for dinner with [ingredient]!?
* A socially-acceptable way for my friends with health problems, financial problems, or who are otherwise socially isolated to "check in." (Bonus: it helps non-local friends find creative ways to be supportive.)

Facebook is lame. People don't respond. They don't actually talk to each other.

Again, not my experience at all. Friends from different circles who have never met in real life have conversations with each other in status updates. But I never considered those getting more comments to be winning some sort of popularity contest -- I can't even fathom that.

Maybe there's a generational difference in how people use social networking. My friends and I are using Facebook to keep a line of communication open with a whole bunch of minimally-overlapping groups of friends from different times and places in our lives. Where we all landed in our thirties and forties is interesting, but we've all made so many major life choices that direct comparison (let alone envy) wouldn't occur to me.
posted by desuetude at 12:04 PM on January 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sure, my [subject]-obsessed friends post about [subject] a lot, and my perpetually-needs-a-favor friend throws out requests for favors -- but I accepted that about these people already.

Exxxxxactly! And indeed, I do have one friend who perpetually posts about how Incredibly Awesome she is, and how she works harder than anyone else and is better at everything... but she always did that in person, on the phone, and in emails. Facebook is just one more venue in which she expresses that self-image, not the cause of it.

I accepted that trait long ago, which is why we're friends: because I love her with all her foibles and she loves me with all mine. (And when she self-congratulates on FB, I feel comfortable rolling my eyes affectionately once in a while. In person, I usually held that back.)
posted by Elsa at 2:15 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is why I post as much of my depression as I can (not joking). Misery loves companies like facebook.
posted by Eideteker at 2:19 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, while I was submitting links and updates and photos that I thought were pretty interesting, and getting no response, people with more popularity were getting shitloads of responses to contributions that were quite banal and not all that interesting. After a while, that pattern really started to piss me off.

Yes, this is petty. I'm only human.


I think this sentiment is more likely than the depressed-because-other-people-are-happy theory.

It's the feeling that none of your friends give a fuck about what you have to say.

To be fair, metafilter likely feels the same way to some people, i.e. those who make posts and get no comments or make comments and get no (or harsh) replies.

But then Facebook is supposed to be your "real" friends, I suppose.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:09 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Any self promoters get Hidden from my feed. I also keep separate "lists" of my fave contributors and musical acts I like. I rarely look at the full news feed.

I have a fair number of "courtesy" friends whom I never see again after I accept their request, and I have a few actual friends whom I hide because they update too fucking much. When I want to check in on them I visit their Wall.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:17 PM on January 30, 2011


LOL Elsa I was thinking that too, it seems like the people who compain about complainers waste us much time complaining about negative people as negative people spend complainging about their lives HA!

I like facebook silliness and I like sticking interesting articles out there and hoping people might accidentally use their brains (oops, I thought I was on facebook?!)

The other half of my posts are total silliness. What can I say, I'm a single mom who stopped drinking... I don't get out much LOL
posted by xarnop at 7:46 PM on January 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I feel like the effect at work here is overstated. I do not like it when people say things like "Facebook makes us less happy," when what they mean to say is, "Facebook makes some people feel less happy." As an individual with relatively strong self-esteem, I do not seek to make everything in life a competition. I tend to enjoy seeing other peoples' happiness, and am not threatened by it. I also tend to assume there to be a giant "bs buffer" involved, as everyone loves shining their own apple.

This would be more effective titled "Facebook may intensify self-esteem issues, especially for females," although I also take exception with the notion that women are disproportionately prone to having low self-esteem. In my experience, males merely feel more pressure to conceal them, which logically would result in repression and a ratcheting up of said issues.
posted by Alcibiades. at 7:59 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: "their miserable feeds full of complaints and grievances will make you feel better!"
posted by mistersquid at 9:07 PM on January 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not only am I among those who constantly repost interesting links to Facebook, making it my own private Metafilter; I also reposted this link, which started an argument among my friends, and led to some really thoughtful responses. Which made me feel really happy.

Meta-meta-facebookfilter.
posted by Erroneous at 1:13 PM on January 31, 2011


apropos of nothing, one of my non-MeFi friends read this thread (it came up when we were discussing something contextual re: social networking) and her hilariously-inappropriate response was:

"holy shit, I thought emo went out of style in like 2003!"

not to be dismissive of anyone's problems, but, you know, perspective.

on preview: "Not only am I among those who constantly repost interesting links to Facebook, making it my own private Metafilter; I also reposted this link, which started an argument among my friends, and led to some really thoughtful responses. Which made me feel really happy.

Meta-meta-facebookfilter
."

Indeed.
posted by lonefrontranger at 1:30 PM on January 31, 2011




so that's where all those fake facebook quotes come from. ... here's a standard recent post from a random former coworker/facebook friend:

The old woman sitting next to me has a bald kitten in her dufflebag.

I gotta admit that 99% of it is dull shit like that, and it's getting harder and harder to find the good stuff.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:18 PM on January 31, 2011


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