While Facebook has created a platform for people to connect with their friends and peers, it has also contributed to exaggerating happiness. A study carried out by Benoit Monin, Professor at the Department of Psychology at Stanford University reveals people tend to overestimate their friends’ happiness thanks to Facebook. It has become a norm for people to update status on Facebook and brag about their accomplishments, share photos in happy and exciting situations, and make jokes about the slightest of happenings and talk about a crazy night out. When such content is shared among friends, people tend to overestimate the person’s happiness who shared it in the first place. It is a big illusion and a larger misconception which leads people to think how lonely they are.
Professor Monin claimed his research showed three reasons why people tend to solidify this fallacy. One, people feel good in social situations and express their delights which leads their peers to conclude that their friend (who brags on Facebook) is happier than them and fail to realize that they can be sad and lonely as any other person. The second reason drew a direct analogy with the American culture which favors individuals who are positive and happy. A tendency has been observed in the sample that people tend to hide feelings no matter how bad they feel and pretend to be happier than they actually are. This reinforces the illusion. Finally, people on Facebook tend to talk more about the upsides than their downsides.
Professor Monin also talked about how to combat this phenomenon. He argues one can pay attention to the “silent majorities”. This group of people is the kind who does not talk much about what happens in their lives and therefore, their presence is overshadowed by the more vocal peers. In view of this, one should take into account the entire distribution of contacts on Facebook and not just a sample of it.
One can also filter out people who tend to over play their joy. This acts as a strong catalyst in contributing to emotional downturns. Professor Monin also recommends more private, one-to-one conversations and interactions as it is easier to communicate and express with people who are closer to a person.
The full details of the study can be found here: http://psp.sagepub.com/content/37/1/120