Positive psychologists have been telling us for a while now that the key to happiness is connecting. But on Facebook, really? Oh, if I could only write out “really” the way Amy Poehler and Seth Meyer’s said it on Saturday night live. With just a “little” bit of sarcasm.
Sure I connect on Facebook, but I’ve never considered in intimate form of relationship building. Different generation I guess.
Because according to Hugh MacKay, author and social researcher, that while connecting on social media is a pale comparison to “what we need as humans to maintain community.”
The bigger question is just how important is social contact to our ability to experience happiness?
MacKay argues it’s very important, maybe the single most important factor for long term happiness. He suggest that we can forget about Social status, material wealth (at least after the basic survival and comfort needs are met); they won’t translate in any long term form of wellbeing.
MacKay’s not alone, all the heavy hitters in the positive psychology field have arrived at the same conclusion. Why? Because the research supports it.
Sonja Lyubomirsky a prominent, positive psychologist, believes the reason that good social relationships are important is because they serve many vital needs. According to Lyubomirsky, we have a biological need to belong, we seek and need social support (especially in times of stress) and we need love (it’s one of the most important factors in happiness and relationship).
MacKay has his own reasons how our wellbeing can effect and be affected by good relationships. He calls them the “three great therapies of everyday life.” They include the ability to “listen attentively, to apologize sincerely and to forgive generously.”
One point that all the social scientists agree on is that reading about it isn’t doing it, and it won’t do “it” for you either unless you act.
But what about Facebook and the other social media connecting points, do they or can they have a positive impact on relationship. It seems that the answer is a tad ambiguous.
MacKay take on this is “…when we see social media as a substitute for connecting, that is very dangerous.” This is right in line with the latest research that social media cuts both ways, good and bad.
In her article on social media, connecting and happiness, Helen Hawkes offers us this:
A previous report from the University of Edinburgh Business School said that the more social circles a person is linked to on Facebook the more likely the website will become a source of stress.
In March 2013, Facebook had more than 1.11 billion active worldwide users.
Of course social media can be a positive way to keep in touch long-distance, but for friends and family just around the corner, a cup of coffee, a meal, or just a visit is the gold standard.
Get the most out of social media
- Only join in an online conversation if you have something of value to offer;
- Read links before you share them;
- Access social media when you can give it your full attention, not every second of the day;
- Say something kind rather than something unkind;
- Consider others before posting distressing photos, eg of animal cruelty;
- Keep politics and religion out of it unless you are a political lobbyist or a minister of the church;
- Enjoy the experience before you snap a photo and share it;
- Be authentic.
One study conducted at UCSF, and published in the July 2013 issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science, discovered that people that posted on Facebook about their relationships felt more secure and happy in their marriages that people that didn’t.
The research team, led by Laura R. Saslow, having conducted experiments among married Facebook users reached the, not so astonishing, conclusion that “…someone who’s happier with their life would post these kinds of pictures to show off their relationship,” according to co-author Amy Muise.
There’s a downside to using Facebook when it comes to relationship. A New study from the University of Missouri-Columbia found that “individuals who use Facebook excessively are far more likely to experience Facebook–related conflict with their romantic partners.”
The conclusion when it comes to relationships and social media?
The science is indicating that moderate levels of social media may be key in reducing or preventing personal conflict and building healthy relationships, or as Hugh MacKay “cautions against seeing Facebook and other social media as a substitute for connection in the flesh.”
I agree with MacKay, the key to happiness is connecting because there’s something unique and special about human relationships, and we will do well to cultivate, nourish and enjoy them.