There are benefits to Facebook, for sure, including relationship maintenance and social support. Notwithstanding these benefits, many studies and surveys have found that use of Facebook and similar social media makes us less happy than if we refrained from using social media.
A study out of University of Tel Aviv this past February shines light on why Facebook causes us to be less happy. The researchers studied employees of a security-related organization. From 2008 – 2012 no employee was allowed to have a Facebook account due to security issues. After 2012, some employees were allowed to have a Facebook account based on what projects they were working on. Thus, this firm was great testing ground for what exactly Facebook does to reduce our happiness. The researchers thought that they’d find that Facebook makes us less happy because we see only the good parts of our “friends” lives and that our lives aren’t as good as the fake lives we follow. Surprisingly, they found that we realize that other’s posts aren’t representative of the good and the bad of their lives.
Rather, what leads to our unhappiness is our general engagement in social comparison when we use social media. The constant evaluation of our own lives and comparison to others’ lives is what likely leads to unhappiness. “The Facebook user experience is designed in a way that promotes social comparison (particularly the friends feed), and may establish a tendency to compare oneself to others, also off-platform.” They also found that more frequent use of Facebook leads to greater feelings of envy.