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The role of social networks in our happiness

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The role of social networks in our happiness

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Whilst social networks have grown to enormous sizes over the past few years, there is a growing sense that they aren’t as beneficial as their enormous popularity might suggest.  A recent study, conducted by researchers from Italy and Luxemburg, for instance found that social network usage can actually be really rather damaging.

The study, which saw the social networking habits of around 50,000 Italians trawled over during a two year period.  They were looking in particular for things such as the wellbeing of each participant, in addition to their specific social media, and indeed wider Internet, usage.  They were hoping to discover the role the web, and especially social networks, play in our wellbeing.

The study asked participants to share their general sense of happiness, along with more specific questions such as how often they met with their friends or whether they thought people could be trusted.  This data, along with that pertaining to the social media usage of participants allowed the researchers to gauge the correlation between wellbeing and various other facets of their life.

Face to face is good

The researchers found that there was a direct correlation between our face to face encounters with people, and our overall sense of wellbeing.  They discovered that if you generally trust people, and have a lot of face to face interactions with them, then you’re much more likely to believe you’re happy and content.

As our many online interactions lack this face to face element, how does this impact upon our trust levels, and subsequently our happiness?  Well, it seems it depends on the kind of tactics you deploy.

“We find that online networking plays a positive role in subjective well-being through its impact on physical interactions, whereas [the use of] social network sites is associated with lower social trust,” they say. “The overall effect of networking on individual welfare is significantly negative,” the researchers state.

So the moral of the story is that your online social networking has to be grounded in, and complimentary to, your real world networking efforts.  Anything else and it will likely diminish rather than embellish your happiness.

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