Facebook is not making you unhappy

Recently there was research published that "proved" people on Facebook were less happy than those who stopped using Facebook. The resulting discussions online have centered around the behavior of people to post positive, exciting things about themselves which may not be entirely true. The consequence is those who read it become less happy with their own lives. Many suggest the solution is for people to close their laptops, put away their phones and experience life. This is great life advice. Being active and experiencing life will probably make you happier. 

But not using Facebook isn’t the solution. It is basic human nature to be envious. Facebook creates a continuous stream of updates from our friends and family about their life, children, vacations and jobs. But this type of boasting has been around before social media. It used to take the form of phone calls, holiday letters, and chatting at social events. What social media has done is give people a platform to brag to hundreds of people at once. The important insight is that human behavior has not changed one bit. Facebook is not making you unhappy - you are. We make ourselves unhappy by wanting what we perceive others have and that didn't change because of Facebook. 

This highlights an important problem - the risk of drawing incorrect conclusions from limited data and analysis. All too often, we want to quickly act on something we learn from research or data collected in the course of business. But if not considered in the larger context of culture and environment, the conclusions can be misleading and dangerous. Decisions will be made that are at best ineffectual and at worst disastrous for the brand’s health. In this case, the conclusion that Facebook causes unhappiness is misguided and should not influence a brand’s strategy. Rather, strategy should be based on people’s inherent need to feel adequate and accepted. How can your brand help your customers simply feel good about themselves? What can your brand do to not create an atmosphere of boasting or appearance, but of self-fulfillment and contentment? Focusing on those questions will result in strategy that matters. 

And here’s a bonus for all the people hating on Facebook. If you find that Facebook makes you less happy, there is simple solution outside of not using it (or any social media for that matter). Focus on how to be happy with your life and your self. When you do that, the rest of it just doesn’t matter.