Feeling down about your life? One quick way to cheer yourself up may be to delete your Facebook account.
New research indicates that the more people use the hugely popular social networking website, the more they will believe that others are much happier.
The study by Utah Valley University found that the carefully-chosen pictures of smiling, cheerful faces which Facebook users tend to plaster over their pages cumulatively convey a debilitating message to others.Sociologists Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge interviewed 425 undergraduate students about their happiness and that of their friends.
Participants were asked how much they agreed or disagreed with statements such as 'Life is fair' and 'Many of my friends have a better life than me'.
They then described their Facebook activity including their number of 'friends' and the proportion whom they actually knew.
Ninety-five percent used Facebook, and on average they had been there for two and a half years and spent nearly five hours a week on it.
After allowing for gender, religiosity and whether people were single or attached, the study found that 'the more hours people spent on Facebook, the stronger was their agreement that others were happier'.
This was particularly true of Facebook users who stockpiled 'friends' they did not actually know.Those who had used Facebook for longer were also 'significantly' likely to agree with the statement that 'life is unfair'.
Conversely, the study - published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking – found that people who spent more time actually socialising with friends in the flesh were less likely to feel they had been handed life's short straw.
Ms Chou argues that this Facebook-related dissatisfaction is the result of a common psychological process known as 'correspondence bias', in which we draw false conclusions about people based on limited knowledge.
According to Ms Chou, 'looking at happy pictures of others on Facebook gives people an impression that others are "always" happy and having good lives'.
While Facebook users will know that their real friends have ups and downs in their lives, all they have to go on with their fake Facebook 'friends' is a smiling picture.
When that distorting effect is multiplied by the hundreds of Facebook friends that people don't actually know, it is easy to see how bitterness can fester, said the study.
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