It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“A study published last month in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking found that the more time people spent on Facebook, the happier they perceived their friends to be and the sadder they felt as a consequence.” (“Don’t Tell Me, I Don’t Want To Know” ; New York Times 2/12/2012)
I have admitted here to hours spent Facebook stalking. I’ll poke through online albums, checking out people’s pregnancy photos (“She’s the size of a large jicama! An ear of corn! A chinese cabbage!”), baby photos, vacation photos, party photos. I’ll assess who’s still BFF with whom, who broke up with who, etc. All of it. I’m totally guilty.
And while I get a weird buzz from mindlessly clicking though picture after picture, there is that moment when you think, “Wait, why didn’t I have 45 people at my birthday party? Should I, too, be zip lining through Costa Rica? How can I get a picture with Barack Obama???”
In this interesting article in the New York Times, Pamela Paul explains all the reasons why we are being bombarded with too much information about our friends these days. “Unless you are my best friend or my husband, I don’t need to know the macabre symptoms of your gastrointestinal virus. I don’t need to know about how much candy anyone, other than me, has eaten,” she writes. “As for my ex-boyfriend, I don’t need to hear about his wife’s ability to Zumba.”
But what struck me most was this quote from psychologist Sherry Turkle: “People pay a psychological price for seeing information about former friends and spouses and colleagues that they really shouldn’t be seeing.” It speaks to the idea that you probably shouldn’t know that your co-worker got wasted last Saturday, or see your ex-boyfriend cuddling with his new love. It’s kind of creepy, and totally unnecessary. Facebook messes with your head, and the worst part, Turkle says, is that “it makes people feel bad because they know they shouldn’t look at this stuff — but they can’t help it!”
It speaks to the very loose definition of friendship that comes with Facebook. I want to see the wedding pics of my friends, but not those of my “friends.” And yet I keep looking. It’s not just a time suck. It makes me feel less fit, when compared with an old sorority sister’s marathon photos or a former classmates flying crow. Or less fashionable (see: photos of home-made adorable scarves or dresses I could never pull off). Or just less fabulous (weddings in Jamaica! Great seats at the Super Bowl!)
No surprise: That Facebook, it’s a blessing and a curse
Do you ever feel worse about yourself after perusing others’ lives on The ‘Book? Do you, too, find yourself looking through photo albums when you know you probably shouldn’t?