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Facebook fever: happy status update, sad reality

By Joseph George

Are you a regular Facebook user and have you been feeling sad?

Well, logging off the social networking site might well make your life a bit more joyful.

A recent research by sociologists Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge at Utah Valley University regular Facebook users are often sad, compared to non-users.

Most of the respondents of the survey (students) were asked how much they agreed or disagreed with statements like “Life is fair” and “Many of my friends have a better life than me.”

According to the researchers, Facebook, as one of the most popular social networking sites among college students, provides a platform for people to manage others' impressions of them. People tend to present themselves in a favorable way on their Facebook profile.

The research titled “They Are Happier and Having Better Lives than I Am”: The Impact of Using Facebook on Perceptions of Others' Lives, examines the impact of using Facebook on people's perceptions of others' lives.

The research points out two reasons why those with deeper involvement with Facebook will have different perceptions of others than those less involved. “First, Facebook users tend to base judgment on examples easily recalled (the availability heuristic).

Second, Facebook users tend to attribute the positive content presented on Facebook to others' personality, rather than situational factors (correspondence bias), especially for those they do not know personally.”

Nisha Matthews a doctorate student at a University in Johannesburg and currently in Dubai on a research project said, she could not have agreed less with the findings.

“Looking more closely, most people keep updating the best part of their lives on Facebook. It usually is either pictures of them on holiday or them having a fun time. The perception it creates on his or her Facebook friend is that of a jolly good life. It is quite natural for me to envy the other person’s life especially because I am not aware of their difficulties in life,” says Matthews.

Mahesh Kumar, who has been using Facebook for the last five years said, “I was recently very surprised to know that one of my old friend was on the verge of a divorce. I knew the family well and kept in touch through Facebook and thought they were a happy couple. At least that is what their images that were uploaded on Facebook communicated.”

The researchers also asked students about how much time they spent on Facebook, their number of Facebook friends as well as how many of those friends they had actually met in person. The researchers also attempted controlling for factors like relationship status, gender, religious beliefs and race.

Questionnaires, including items measuring years of using Facebook, time spent on Facebook each week, number of people listed as their Facebook “friends,” and perceptions about others' lives, were completed by 425 undergraduate students taking classes across various academic disciplines at a state university in Utah.