Does social media bring happiness?

Some people will be aware that I have been taking part in an online course about social psychology run through the brilliant Coursera service. It has been an amazing experience and my first of taking part in a MOOC (massive open online course). The latest lecture that I viewed was about the pursuit of happiness. I was particularly taken by the research being discussed from Harvard professor Michael Norton who looked at whether money could bring happiness. (worth watching http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_norton_how_to_buy_happiness.html )

In short the answer he gave was only if it was spent in the right way, which was on other people in a pro-social enterprise. His consideration of happiness concluded that it was the social aspects of life and spending time with people that was a common thread of what made people happy. If I spend £5 on myself and I spend £5 on someone else I will experience greater happiness with the latter. And if I work with my team on something that benefits others we can become a more productive group.

It started me thinking if the rise in social media and the ability to connect with wider groups of people means there could be an increase in happiness. Social media does help to expose people to new ideas, keeps them in touch with friends at home and abroad, and can bring like-minded individuals together. So, if you have an active network can that make you a happier person than someone who doesn’t? Could this new technology provide us with a way of increasing our sense of well-being?

I have written about suffering from FOMO – the fear of missing out – when I am parted from the ability to check social media. Those are quite negative feelings. But when I am involved in a Google Hangout or a Twitterchat perhaps the activity is increasing my happiness or sense of satisfaction with life?

It would be fascinating to do some proper research into the link between active use of social media and any increase in happiness. There is so much written currently in the media about possible ‘bad’ elements of using social media and how it is having a negative impact on people. It is about time there was some accurate social research on this social media phenomenon.

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