Does social media allow us to be more or less happy?
Eoin Buckley, account executive
Last month I was lucky enough to attend an event by The School of Life entitled Eudaimonia! Good ideas for living well. The practice of Eudaimonia, or more simply ‘human flourishing’, means reminding ourselves that happiness can frequently be found from within. You don’t need hundreds of people around you just to be happy – sometimes just a select few close friends are enough.
At the event, we discussed how social media allows us to be connected all day every day, making it hard for many people to switch off and find time to themselves. This then begs the question: is social media good for our emotional stability? Is it a tool for our own peace of mind, or does it just get in the way of what really matters – our happiness?
On one side of the coin, social media allows us to connect with people from all over the world. This can be a great thing for keeping in touch with friends and family who may have moved far away or who struggle to keep in touch for any reason. For these people, social media can bring incredible happiness, as it offers them a doorway into the lives of those they value most and a way to keep in touch, no matter the distance or lifestyle.
In a similar vein, social media is a great way of meeting like-minded people who share your views or hobbies. If you enjoy a niche sport or activity, these sites allow you to search your local area and find people who you can relate to, far easier than through word of mouth or other means of finding companionship in the masses.
On the other hand, there is research implying social media paints an inaccurate picture of other people’s lives, and can lead to a lot of unhappiness amongst people. That popular girl in school may have 100 ‘perfect’ pictures on her Facebook, but it doesn’t show the time before and after every picture, where she painstakingly posed and perfected that image to appear flawless. Especially among the more vulnerable members of society, being able to see so many people who lead these seemingly fantastic lives that appear so much better than you can be very isolating and lonely.
And yet, as social creatures, we are seemingly compelled to continually check our social media channels and be constantly updated with everything that’s going on, both within our circles of friendship and out in the wider world. A recent study revealed the average person can check their phone over 85 times a day without even realising it! This makes it incredibly hard to stay grounded in an age where the people you idolise and aspire to be like are merely the touch of a button away, with unblemished images and faultless lifestyles on show.
Of course, this is barely the tip of the iceberg when discussing whether social media is good for personal happiness. While social platforms can be superb tools for bringing people together, there are arguments that they can be very dangerous if used incorrectly. There is little doubt that they have become an integral part of all of our lives, but perhaps it’s best if we all give this topic some thought and take a moment to ask ourselves – how can I moderate my social media intake to best improve my happiness?