4 Reasons Why Your Facebook Friends Aren't As Happy As They Seem


Facebook Likes photo by Jackson Sophat

Social media has a huge impact on our society. It’s changed the way we share information, communicate, and make connections. Social media use has become so prominent that it’s inspired a number of psychological studies into how and why people use it.

Facebook has noted that there are twice as many posts with positive words than negative ones on their social media platform, which fuels a perception that most Facebook users seem to have amazing lives. Consequently, it’s not uncommon for us to experience negative thoughts about our own lives when comparing our friend’s lives to our own when on social media.  

These types of confidence-inhibiting reactions can hamstring us on our way toward accomplishing our goals. And on the other side of the wall, receiving praise for a positive post — that may or may not be all it’s cracked up to be — triggers the reward center of our brain, which may stall our internal motivation to accomplish what we really want out of life.

So it begs the question — are we really as happy as we seem on social media? Studies suggest that many of us are sugarcoating our lives on Facebook, and it turns out there are specific reasons why we make life seem rosier than it actually is.

Reason #1 – People Are Creating Their Own Reality

The vast majority of people don’t want to live depressing, uneventful lives. We want to be just as interesting and successful as our cool friends that post pictures from their latest travels and announce their big promotions. It’s essentially the modern day equivalent of keeping up with the Joneses.

Have you ever wondered why the characters in your favorite television show never use the restroom? The reason is that ordinary activities and interactions are not always relevant to the progression of a story. Because of the nature of social media platforms, users can very easily create their own reality by showcasing nothing but the high points. Relationships always seem steady, the invites to events seem to be endless, and our appearance looks better when all the awkward photos never see the light of day or get filtered beyond recognition.

All this effort goes into shaping a reality that excludes the mundane, everyday occurrences that just aren’t interesting. What we’re left with is a Facebook feed that will be the envy of friends. Instead of being envious, understand that social media only tells one side of the story — for every victory there is a burden. No one is gifted great accomplishments, we have to work for them.

Reason #2 – We Want To Overcome Relationship Insecurities

There is also evidence that when people feel insecure about their relationships they tend to cast it in a better light online. It’s as if we’re trying to improve the health of the relationship by making it appear perfect on our Facebook page. It’s a classic case of overcompensating to hide insecurities.

Usually this comes from our subconscious without us even being aware that it’s happening. When we post a happy pic with our significant other the responses we get are reassuring. Unfortunately, creating happy posts about our relationships is no substitute for addressing issues offline.

The only way to fix a relationship is to spend time fixing it. Instead of posting pleasant memories online, time block some quality time for you and your partner to address the pain points you may be experiencing.

Reason #3 – Sharing Happiness Makes Other People Happier

Emotions are contagious even without direct contact, especially happiness. If you want to leave a lasting impression on others, being positive is more impactful than sharing a low point in life.

As a Facebook study from 2014 revealed, people who use the platform to share positive emotions and experiences have a greater influence on their network compared to sharing negative posts. It creates a domino effect that can alter the mood of others and subsequently their own posts. The effect is so strong — studies have shown — that online awareness of stressful events in other people’s lives increases our own stress levels offline.

Be aware that stress has its upsides and downsides. While it can be used as a way to get our motor running, it can also lead us feeling burned out. If social media is stressing you out, take a break!

Reason #4 – Gaining More Friends And Likes Makes Us Feel Loved

Expanding on the point above, people inherently seem to know posting positive things that are happening in life is more likely to illicit a response from others. Positive posts get positive feedback that makes us feel more connected and gives us a greater sense of belonging. Ultimately, that is what many people are looking for on social media sites. Seeing those likes and responses gives us a good feeling.

Dr. Liraz Margalit noted in Psychology Today that people tend to equate likes to feeling loved by social media friends. The more we receive them the more loved we feel. When life isn’t going well we need to feel loved more than normally. That’s why many people put a positive spin on bad experiences — they know they’ll get the positive feedback they need.

The downside of this is that instead of feeling empowered by our struggles, we’re empowered by our achievements. This “reward before work” mentality paves a dangerous path toward cheating ourselves out of true fulfillment by way of taking shortcuts. Be mindful that the true reward of achieving our goals doesn’t come from social media, but from the progress we make in our own lives.

We’re trying to keep it real on Facebook. Let us know if you’ve noticed a few of these interesting occurrences among your happiest friends. And subscribe to our newsletter for more research and stories. 

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