Facebook: The Happiest Place on Earth?

OK, OK, so I read this report this week that a guy up the road from me killed his neighbor because his daughter was un-friended on Facebook.  And then this story is buzzing around about the guy who shot his daughter’s computer and posted it on YouTube because she whined about doing her chores in a status update.  Sure … there is just a little bit of anger that can show up on the interwebs!

But despite this weirdness and angst, the data would suggest that people who frequent social networks are a pretty happy bunch. I recently had a post that showed the emotional boost from Facebook was similar to something you would get by being married!

Now, a new study from Pew Research shows that the overall social and emotional climate of social networking sites (SNS) is a very positive.  Adult users get personal rewards and satisfactions at far higher levels than when they encounter anti-social people or have ill consequences from their encounters. A nationally representative phone survey of American adults finds that:

  • 85% of SNS-using adults say that their experience on the sites is that people are mostly kind, compared with 5% who say people they observe on the sites are mostly unkind and another 5% who say their answer depends on the situation.
  • 68% of SNS users said they had an experience that made them feel good about themselves.
  • 61% had experiences that made them feel closer to another person. (Many said they had both experiences.)
  • 39% of SNS-using adults say they frequently see acts of generosity by other SNS users and another 36% say they sometimes see others behaving generously and helpfully. By comparison, 18% of SNS-using adults say they see helpful behavior “only once in a while” and 5% say they never see generosity exhibited by others on social networking sites.

At the same time, notable proportions of SNS users do witness bad behavior on those sites and nearly a third have experienced some negative outcomes from their experiences on social networking sites. Some 49% of SNS-using adults said they have seen mean or cruel behavior displayed by others at least occasionally.

Does this match your experience? Do you “get your happy on” when you go to Facebook?

All posts

  • It’s a happy place…but don’t ever bring up politics or religion or that will change really quickly

  • So true, Brad. It’s definitely GIGO (<= Google it). If you put positive energy out there, you will get positive energy back. I heard someone recently complain that "Facebook was full of people complaining all the time."

    My response was, "That's not a problem with Facebook, that's a problem with your friends." 

    Perhaps I was a bit too blunt, but I do believe that Facebook is merely a reflection of what you have made it.

    Great post!

  • It seems a bit unreal that people there should be more polite and friendly than in the so called real life.
    But overall, I am “happy” with social Networks. I have made lots of very nice and interesting contacts (like here to you Mark).
    What I definitely like most is when I meet People from social networks in person.
    Kind regards from Germany and a happy Sunday

  • I guess on the web we can be whoever we want to be. Maybe people try to be better than they are : )

  • Hilarious and true! Love that point Carolyn. Thanks for commenting!

  • Sigh. This is the type of research PEW normally is better at. I guess what irks me is the two middle bullet points. Technically if I was a heavy SNS user who logs in every day and spends let’s just say 30 mins a day using the technology. And I have been doing this for the last 3 years. If in 3 years I got one compliment that made me feel good it confirms bullet point 2 but says nothing about SNS. Just a really bad question. Frequency would be more important. And if I had just two experiences over that time that made me feel closer I confirm bullet point 3. 

    This is like when I get the Mobile Industry research that asks how many people have bought something with their phone in the last 30 days and they get 45% and use that as proof of Mobile purchasing growth yet not breaking out how many were a ring tone, maybe just one cup of starbucks etc or a dollar value.

    This is something I have had discussions in the past with the ARF about and one day when I have the money they will probably be the first industry organization I will join (costs like $5k+ per year) just because so much research is horrible.

    That said Mark I wonder how many people have used Social Media to create social lives for themselves when they were lacking in them in the past. Which btw to me is valuable and positive if it removed social depression feelings.

  • I love my network on Facebook because they are all great people in real life, and I actually know most of them. I have some friends who like posting funny pictures and sayings, and I like those. So yeah, I get a little happy when I’m on Facebook. I’d be able to survive without those doses of joy though. 😉

    As Carolyn pointed out, Facebook is what you make it. If there’s a problem, it’s not Facebook’s fault, it’s yours for adding those people as your friends. If Facebook is a reflection of what you’ve made it, and you’ve made it in the image of your personal life connections, I’d say your personal life network needs some tweaking. ;)Sorry if that was a bit blunt.

  • Interesting post. I like social networks because I’m kind of a social butterfly in real life and social media expands the number of awesome people I can connect with. The people I meet in person are those I cross paths with through my kids’ schools and activities, my work and my neighborhood, which is great. But on social networks I have friends all over the world, and we share ideas and applaud one another’s work. I’m connected to groups where if someone needs support they give a shout and everyone comes rushing in with all this love. It’s amazing.

    I honestly think that the news has made us believe there is a whole lot more negativity and evil in the world than there is in reality. It’s not the fault of the news stations. They have to sell themselves with the most sensational stories they can come up with, which is often the kind of stuff that you started this post with, Mark. It’s the tip of the iceberg. There is a whole reality of people who are doing great things for their communities and the poor that rarely gets press.

    I guess that’s kind of a diversion from the topic. My point is that I think the “happy place” experience of social media, while also perhaps a slightly skewed slant on reality, is far closer to real life than a lot of other main stream media. I assume that it’s true that there are whiners and negative people on Facebook. I just haven’t experienced it.

  • First, welcome back! It has been too long.  Interesting points, as always.  I agree about the Internet research. But there are some interesting new developments out there and Pew is about to crank it up a notch so be patient! Thanks Howie!

  • Love this Rachel. I have let my FB get a bit out of control. I mean with the blog and all I get followed by all these people and most days it’s like “who is this?” But you’re right … I did it !  Thanks so much for the great comment. 

  • Love this perspective.  Funny. I was just lamenting how social media is getting so negative too. So many people focus on the “fails” and miss the boldness of the experiment, the heart of the people, the spirit of trying. We’re all vulnerable to that! 

  • How can pictures of puppies & kittens not make you happy 🙂

    I’m FB friends with a good number of people that are on a bunch of influencer lists from the likes of Forbes & Heaven and they make a living posting cute & happy animal pictures! Obviously they’re on to something, I just prefer to spice it up a bit. Oh yeah, now that I think about, you’re on that list too! But I don’t typically see too many posts from you… Is FB not your happy place?

    Facebook seems to be the social-safe place that reminds me a lot of your picture to start the post. It’s mostly PC content that consists of family accomplishments, motivational picture quotes, and funny pictures. Tough not to get all warm & fuzzy.

  • Yes and no. My experience is: In the end you cannot deceive yourself neither in web nor in life …

  • It took me a while to figure out how I felt about Facebook. And that’s because I have 9 children, 7 of them active on Facebook. So we live in the same house (only 7 now) and get along just fine, but on Facebook my kids love me to death! It appears so different from reality and makes me laugh! I finally got it. In a busy house with a lot of distractions it’s hard to have a meaningful conversation without many interruptions. But I can type a status update while kids are trashing the house and nobody knows! LOL! So, what I’m saying is that Facebook gives me the chance to be heard and to respond without interruptions…and , yeah, that seems fake, But I LOVE it! P.S. It’s the same with friends. When they come to visit it can be hard to really connect the same way that we do online where there are fewer distractions in the moment.

  • Yes, and sadly we see that play out every day on the web.

  • Truthfully, I’m not a big Facebook fan. It’s like walking though a candy store. Maybe once in a while but every day?  My FB stream is primarily brain floss — visual puns and jokes. I get a lot more substance on a segmented Twitter stream or Google Plus circle. And … FB creeps me out.

  • I think you have really nailed it Betsy.  Think that is good perspective. FB is a place to ESCAPE.  If it’s not happy, why go there? : )   Thanks!

  •  Thanks Mark I have been slacking in my blog attendance in general. I am a big fan of Pew since they seem to be one of the few sources of objective research out there and they cover everything. Looking forward to seeing what they come out with.

    Cheers and hope the shoulder is healing

  • I think Facebook has its seasons. At times you get a flood of awesome articles, a good blend of local news / happenings, some dosage of laughter, a glimpse of how others are living their life, what they had for breakfast / lunch / dinner or a whole lot of spam or game invites. Going in there for me, is just to keep me informed of what my friends are up to 🙂

  • Facebook is great for keeping in touch with friends and family across the country and around the world. When we see each other in person again – sometimes after years apart – we are already caught up on past events and can jump right into what’s important today. Most days, someone posts something that makes me laugh – or at least smile. 

  • AmyP

     Facebook is great as long as I keep my friends limited to my actual friends. Facebook has made something very clear though – SOME OF MY FRIENDS ARE CRAZY,  from mothers who give away their children’s identities to the digital world without a second thought, to volatile friends who write very alarming comments.

    This article is quite interesting: http://www.theage.com.au/national/negative-nancys-beware-grumpy-facebook-posts-could-cost-you-friends-20120209-1rwm8.html

  • Anonymous

    Makes me wonder if finding “personal rewards and satisfaction” online means we’re less likely to seek or share them offline. Sometimes, after a long session of scrolling down that endless FB news feed, I look away from my monitor and feel a bit empty. Outside the computer portal, the “real” world feels a colder for a moment – or is it just harder for us to see compassion, humor and humanity off screen?
    On the other hand, this definitely explains why social media is so addictive!

  • Well said Jan. Thanks for the comment!

  • Awesome. Thanks for that perspective.

  • Thanks so much for sharing that Amy.

  • Funny. I just had a long conversation about this. I don’t know. Maybe strengthens relationships in a lot of ways through the constant connection?  Thanks for the thought-provoking comment Tuula.

  • TheMayor

    Hmmm… this study shows just the opposite is true.  Facebook is making us sad.  

  • Alicia

    I don’t necessarily get a rush of joy when I am on Facebook, it’s more of a place to go when I’m attempting to get escape the mundane duties of my everyday life.  I do think positive feelings can come from having an account, such as when you see positive comments on pictures and people leaving nice things on your wall.  It makes you feel like someone is thinking about you and makes you ultimately feel better about yourself.  On the other hand, I believe social media has contributed to some of the vanity that most people display on these sites. People are constantly taking pictures of themselves and posting them, looking for that validation of a “like” or comment telling them they look great.  I think it’s more of a need to validate ourselves from other people’s approval that causes us to feel positive and/or negative when using social networks.  

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