By Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOK
Today, I got to thinking about some pretty dismal topics. People will disappoint you. Friends disappear when you need them most. Family members never call. Kids booby-trap your toilet with Legos, hide the only plunger, and cry so hard over their drowned Jedi cruiser that you fish it out with, yes, your hand. Long story short, I spent today having a first-class pity party.
What started this? Facebook. The entire day long, I had watched my friends dress up for parties, wax rhapsodic on literature and politics, and take beautiful pictures of their children at perfect fall picnics they'd easily cooked from scratch-and no one in those pictures threw food at their brothers or screamed, "You cooked squash! I wish I was never born in this family!" With Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter updating us on every fun development in our friends' lives, sometimes it feels like we're the only people struggling. It feels like we're left out of the fun.
According to a new study from Stanford, other people also have social media-included blues like me. In a piece aptly subtitled, "By helping other people look happy, Facebook is making us sad," researchers explain that the research subjects "underestimated how many negative experiences" their peers were having, such as distressing fights or feeling lonely. They also overestimated the amount of fun these same peers had, like going out with friends and attending parties. The more someone thought in this grass-is-greener way, the more he or she reported feeling lonely, depressed, and unhappy. The researchers concluded: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.
Not only am I sad, but I'm a "keeping up with the Joneses" sad cliché. Well, isn't that a depressing thought?
After pondering how I'm so easily explained by scientific studies (that's a good thing, right?) I concluded that my problem wasn't Facebook and my subsequent comparisons with my friends. My problem is waiting to be happy like they appear to be instead of choosing happiness for myself right now.
So, I'm choosing my own happiness by logging off Facebook and going to bed early for a change.
Anyone else ever get bummed out by Facebook? How do you "choose happiness"?
Charlotte Hilton Andersen is a mom of 5 and the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and the blog of the same name.
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