Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Facebook Users May Overestimate Their Friends' Happiness

None of these people are having as much fun as you think.
From The Huffington Post.
Good news for jealous people who use Facebook:  The Times of India reports that most users overestimate the positive feelings that their friends post on their profiles. These results come from Stanford University, which surveyed students about their moods and what they thought their friends were feeling. When the researchers compared the friends' actual moods, they found that students underestimate their friends' negative feelings and overestimate the positive, which in turn made respondents unhappy because they felt less normal.

As lead researcher Alex Jordan says, "People think, 'Why am I alone on a Saturday night' or, 'Why I am not in a relationship?' When people overestimate the happiness of friends, they felt more negatively about their own lives." The study revealed that the misattribution of friends' feelings happened even between people who knew each other very well.

The more students underestimated the negative emotions of their friends, the more their feelings of loneliness increased--a trend that Catalina Toma of the University of Wisconsin says can be emotionally harmful to passive Facebook users. She writes, "People naturally compare themselves to those around them, a process known as social comparison. If you perceive yourself to be doing better than your friends in an area that is important for you the social comparison will make you feel good. However, if you think your friends surpass you in an area that's important to your self-concept, you will likely feel dejected as a result of the comparison."

You can read the actual study, "Misery Has More Company Than People Think: Underestimating the Prevalence of Others’ Negative Emotions," in the January 2011 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (if you're willing to pay for it or you have a SAGE Journals Online account).

1 comment:

  1. I believe in it! makes me feel even more thankful for not being a jealous type... But I've seen people being "eaten" by it.